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Full text of "Preferences in art, life, and literature"

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CORNELL UNIVERSITY. LIBRARY 





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Cornell University 
Library 



The original of this book is in 
the Cornell University Library. 

There are no known copyright restrictions in 
the United States on the use of the text. 



http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924097494813 



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iREFERENCES 

,IN ART. LIFE. AND 
LITERATURE. BY 
HARRY aUILTER ma. 
TRIN: COLL: CAMB: 
OF THE INNER TEM- 
PLE. Esq,, BARRISTER- at- law. 




1892 



SWAN SONNEN- 
SCHEIN & CO. 
PATERNOSTER 
SQUAReitONOON 



The Copyright of all Pictures and Drawings appearing in this Book 
is most strictly reserved. 



\^ IS good' 

BOOK I OEDICA^i 

TETO JMYWIFE 
AND W^rSH IT^V 
WEREMOREWOi 
RTHYOFHERPll 
HARRY QUILTER 




PREFACE. 

HARDLY know whether this book should 
be called old or new. Half the matter 
at least has already appeared at various 
intervals during the past seventeen years. 
But even this portion has been revised, recast, 
and in many places rewritten for the present 
publication. And rather more than a third is entirely 
new, having been written within the last three months. 
Lastly, of the previously-published portion, some fifty pages 
appeared in a privately-printed pamphlet, and an equal 
quantity has been taken here and there from a series 
of three hundred articles (written in the Spectator), and 
appears for the first time in connected form. 

Therefore I may say with Charles Reade,^ that "to 
describe this work as a reprint would be unfair to the 
public and to me. The English language is copious, and 
in any true man's hands quite able to convey the truth," 
viz. that this is a new work in which a considerable amount 
of revised writing has been included. 

Did not the world move so fast nowadays, I might per- 
haps allege as a sufficient reason for the inclusion of those 
papers which have formerly appeared, that they represent 
the best part of nearly twenty years' service as a public 
writer, and that during that period I have been frequently 
asked to reprint several of the Essays in question. But 
I doubt whether such a plea is allowable at a time when 
the Press is groaning with new works, and at all events 
the above are not the chief reasons which have led me to 
make the selection. 

1 In his preface to The Cloister and the Hearth. 
V 



My first desire has been, by presenting my views upon 
Art and its connection with life, in various forms, and 
by recording in connected sequence the critical opinions 
expressed during many years upon English and Foreign 
painting, to enable the public to judge whether these views 
and criticisms be substantially just or no, and whether 
time has not, so far at all events, justified my words. 
Not even the bitterest critic — and some critics are very 
bitter — can feel more keenly than myself the imperfections 
of temper, haste, and form which have so frequently dis- 
figured my periodical writing. Nor can any one resent 
more than I deplore the apparent indifference and scorn 
with which I have approached and censured work which 
has always taken labour and thought, and patient, if mis- 
taken, skill to produce. Of old, when I considered that a 
picture was in a bad style of art, I habitually ignored, if I 
did not forget, the personal feeling of the artist. 

As we grow older we see that even the truest truths of 
our youth are only partially tenable; that our harshest, 
most unjust antagonists have had some justice, some 
right on their side ; but in early manhood I think a critic 
is almost necessarily "a good hater," if he be very much 
in earnest. If he sees at all, he sees so very clearly: he 
cannot believe but that his world is apparent to every one 
who wishes to look. Compromise appears to him equally 
base and feeble — he throws every half-loaf out of the window 
impatiently — better far no bread at all than such a beggarly 
portion! At least so I fear the present writer felt, and 
feeling, erred ; and destroyed by impatience and intolerance 
the influence he might perhaps otherwise have gained. 

Nothing, then, shall be said here in extenuation of these 
faults, nor would I plead, at this late hour, ad miseri- 
cordiam. The work must stand or fall with all its im- 
perfections on its head. But with regard to inadequate, 
ignorant, or mistaken criticism, a few words are, in justice 
to myself, necessary ; for such charges are easily and fre- 
quently brought against a public writer, especially against 
one who does not belong to any of the well - recognised 
journalistic coteries. 

In the course of the years covered by the Essays in this 

vi 



book (1872- 1 890), I must have seen and written of nearly 
half a million pictures and sculptures, and criticised several 
hundred books, chiefly relating to art. This work has 
been done for the most part at a few hours' notice, and 
generally with no time for revision or reflection. That is 
one of the conditions of newspaper writing. In such 
circumstance there is, I dare to say, no possibility of 
avoiding occasional errors, mistakes, or blunders, especially 
in writing which at least aims at independence. 

Such mistakes I have made not infrequently in my 
critical life, and have had them dealt with severely enough, 
by those whose business it is to furnish entertaining para- 
graphs to the lighter journals. That was all right and 
fair: a critic is paid not to make mistakes, and, if he 
does commit them, should not " 'scape whipping." And I 
am a little pleased to remember that in nearly twenty 
years the paragraph censors have only detected me in 
some "half-dozen serious blunders, three of which I had pre- 
viously discovered. I do not count in these misprints of 
proper names, or similar clerical errors. 

One form of attack, however, which has been used against 
me, I believe, with some effectiveness, is undoubtedly most 
traitorous and mean — equally unworthy of a journalist 
and a gentleman — and that is censure which, avowedly 
based upon quotation, is in reality founded upon ingenious 
misrepresentation of an author's meaning. In cases where 
such condemnation is enforced by the misquotation of 
sentences, phrases, and even words and stops, robbed of 
their context, and skilfully pieced together to excite ridi- 
cule, the critic has no difficulty in apparently proving that 
the author or writing criticised, is vulgar, incapable, or 
absurd. 

For the honour of journalism, I am proud to think that 
such malfaisance is extremely rare ; but it does exist in 
London, and a well-known critic so betrayed his office 
with regard to a book which I wrote about six years ago. 
His mala fides I proved to his own Editor's (dis-)satis- 
faction in an interview wherein we compared, point by 
point, the reviewer's quotations and my words as I had 
written them. At the end of this interview, which lasted 
b vii 



about two hours, the Editor (who had the most wonder- 
ful memory I have ever knowji), went through each instance 
I had brought before him, and repeated the criticism and 
my objection, and asked if that was my case. I assented, 
and asked him, in my turn, if he could defend his reviewer, 
if he could assert that there was not a manifest and inten- 
tional wrong done me by the article. He admitted that no 
defence was possible ; that the review was entirely unjust, 
and demanded what I " wanted him to do." I said, " Pub- 
lish in your paper what you have just acknowledged " ! 
"What!" he said, "insert an interview with an author 
against my own critic ! That would be the ' New Journalism ' 
with a vengeance ! Well, I'll see what I can do." So he 
departed, but of course nothing was done. The " affair was 
too unimportant." 

The critic's name — which I knew throughout — I prefer 
not to mention. He will probably not resent the omis- 
sion. I heard afterwards that he had boasted of having 
done rather a smart thing in journalism ; and after, I hope, 
a somewhat different fashion, I took a quiet revenge a year, 
or two later. He wrote a nice little book (to mention its 
nature would probably indicate the author's name), and, 
being then Editor of the Universal Review, I sat down 
and wrote the very nicest criticism thereof which I possibly 
could, and put it at the head of the most important books 
of the month ; and I have since then always felt that we 
were — quits. 

To return to the question of just and unjust criticism. 
The only fair way is to take the work as a whole, and 
consider whether, having regard to its amount and the 
circumstances under which it was done, the result is admir- 
able, or the reverse. Especially with critical work which 
has been before the public some years, the date of writing is 
an essential point, and in many cases time will either have 
proved or disproved the justice of the judgment. 

The fashion for certain artists passes away, but fine art 
remains fine, and if the critic has sought that out, in the first 
instance, his words should remain also. 

In reprinting as the last Essay in this book, verbatim, some 
of the criticisms I wrote from year to year in a weekly news- 

viii 



paper, I give any reader who cares to judge my work, the 
materials for decision. On the whole, are these verdicts (if 
I must call them so, though Preferences is the title I should 
choose) substantiated by the fuller knowledge of to-day? 
That is for the public to decide, and with anxiety I wait their 
sentence. The right intention of the work should not count, 
nor should, in this aspect, the deficiencies of its manner. 
The single question is the justice and insight of the criticism. 
If these. are lacking, no more is to be said. 

A last word of a less serious kind on the vexfed question 
of a critic's right to point out the bad as well as to define 
the good amongst the subjects he deals with. In this 
matter, though I think his duty clear, he may be left by 
those of another opinion quite securely to the justice of the 
Fates. " Exposition " is easy enough and even more safe 
than easy; but "criticism" of the real kind above fore- 
shadowed, is a more than parlous matter. Those who 
endeavour to guide public opinion arouse animosity almost 
in proportion to their earnestness and insight. 

I saw this choice of Hercules (the pleasure of exposition v. 
the duty of criticism) placed before me many years since, and 
with some misgiving, hesitation, and regret, elected for the 
latter course. Perhaps I am still at heart content that my 
decision was not for the primrose path ; but I certainly 
should have been glad to have found the strait road a 
little less stony, and a little more accommodating. What 
Thackeray calls " thorns in the cushion " are every whit as 
plentiful in the seat of the critic as in that of the Editor. I 
have tried both vocations, singly and in combination, and 
the difference of discomfort is merely fractional. Irate 
artists, actors, and authors, furious relations, indignant 
contributors, and every description of journalist, from the 
sardonic Saturday Reviewer, to the ingenious young gentle- 
man who disports himself in the columns of the Empire 
Gazette, have been severe, satirical, pathetic, or abusive at 
my expense. The shape of my head, the roundness of my 
shoulders, the fit of my clothes, the colour of my necktie, 
the profession of my relatives, the quality of my ancestors, 
the amount of my income, my poor little personal " prefer- 
ences," and even my holiday trips and the furniture of my 
office, have been animadverted upon as equally displeasing 

ix 



and criminal. Like Mark Twain when he " ran for Gover- 
nor," I feel inclined to sign myself " once an honest man, 
but now " — and so on with the initials of the various oppro- 
brious epithets bestowed upon me. The ingenious Mr. 
Whistler hit upon a new form of torture by depriving me of 
the first letter of my name, and Mr. Richmond enlivened 
the somewhat dreary proceedings of an Art Congress by 
furious demands to see my pictures, and a harangue on my 
iniquities so majestic and impassioned that he had to be 
called to O'rder by the Chairman. One critic a tout faire 
took it much to heart that I should try to paint, and pur- 
sued me, with the help of his staff, in half the periodicals 
of London town. Strong friends used to come and offer 
to walk with me for protection, and thick sticks to be sent 
me anonymously, without which I was not to stir abroad. 
In the back of the room in which I write, reposes a great 
book which I can, scarcely lift, within whose covers lurk 
two thousand abusive notices, which I was weak enough to 
allow Mr. Romeike to send — a solid twenty pounds' worth 
of invective, without counting the labour of my secretary in 
sticking them in. May not these things too be called thorns 
in the cushion ? 

And yet so weak is human nature, so inconsistent, so 
vicious, that I miss the diatribes, the personalities, the 
sarcasm, the wail of this paper, the snarl of that. I miss 
the allusions to my numerous frailties, my relations' short- 
comings, the locality where lives my tailor, and the offensive 
way I walk down Fleet Street. So, again, O dear old 
enemies, ye who 

" Have done my Credit in Men's Eye much wrong : 
Have drown'd my Honour in a shallow Cup, 
And sold my Reputation for a Song," 

let us have a last encounter! Once more let your 
antipathies and my preferences mingle in the serried 
columns of your favourite journals. And then— let us 
forget all this fine fury of opinion, and acknowledge its 
merely Pickwickian origin, in the sacred recesses of the 
Omar Khayyam Club, or where the " Chat Noir " mews 
nightly under the shadow of Montmartre. 

HARRY QUILTER. 



CONTENTS 



I. A Chapter in the History of Pre-Raphaelitism — 

I. Introductory. ...... 

II. Ford Madox Brown ..... 

III. Dante Gabriel Rossetti ..... 

IV. William Holman Hunt ..... 

V. The Foundation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood 
VI. The Influence of John Ruskin .... 

VII. John Everett Millais ..... 
VIII. The Lesser Pre-Raphaelites .... 
IX. TM Painting and Poetry of Dante Gabriel Rossetti 
X. The Painting of Holman Hunt 
II. Ccelebs at Home 

III. In Memoriam : Frank Holl 

IV. Amy Levy : A Reminiscence ...... 

V. The Unfashionable Art of England .... 

VI. Life, Art, and Nature in an Old -World City . 
VII. Jean Francois Millet and William Hunt . 
VIII. Two Days of a Painter 
IX. The Art of Watts 
X, The Amateur 
XI. WiLKiE Collins 
XII. Thoughts on French Art . 
XIII. The Royal Academy from 1872-1890: An Essay in Nineteen 
Chapters 



PAGE 

I 

8 
IS 
23 
30 
38 

47 
60 
80 

95 
106 
124 
13s 
150 
16s 
177 
190 
201 
226 
247 
281 

297 



XI 



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 



The Autotype Illustrations are marked (*) 



Frontispiece .... * The Blue Closet . . D. G. Rossetti 


Title of Picture. 


Artists Name. TO face page 


*Ophelia 


Sir John Millais, R.A. 


I 


Study of Head for Isabella Supper . 


J) 


4 


*CordelJa's Portion 


Ford Madox Brown , 


8 


*The Last of England . 


» • 


12 


*"Work!" 


J) 


15 


One of Rossetti's Models 


Z>. G. Rossetti . 


i8 


*Early Portrait of Rossetti 


W. Holman Hunt 


20 


*TheShip 


» • • 


23 


*La Bella Mano .... 


D. G. Rossetti . 


. 26 


The Gladness of the Land 


C. H. Shannon 


30 


The Isabella Supper 


. Sir John Millais, R.A. 


35 


* Cromwell at St. Ives 


Ford Madox Brown . 


• 38 


*Venus' Mirror .... 


E. Burne Jones 


42 


*« Daddy Hunt" and "Jack Millais » 


D. G. Rossetti . 


• 47 


A Woman with Grapes . 


„ ... 


52 


The Triumph of Saul and David 


. T. M. Rooke . 


• 56 


*The Waters of Lethe . 


. F. Sandys 


60 


*The Trial of Wycliffe . 


. Ford Madox Brown . 


• 63 


*Early Portrait of Millais . 


W. Holman Hunt 


• 70 


Death the Friend .... 


. G. du Maurier 


■ 74 


*The Beguiling of Merlin 


E. Burne Jones . 


• 78 


*The Annunciation .... 


D. G. Rossetti . 


. 80 



xni 



Title of Picture. 


Artist's Name. 




TO FACE PAGE 


Miss Siddal .... 


. D. G. Rossetti . . . .84 


*Beata Beatrix 


>) 






. 86 


"Found" .... 


)) 






. 90 


'■'Love co-equal with the Ages . 


. Z. Housman 






■ 94 


*The Shadow of the Cross 


W. Holman Hunt 






. 98 


*Meditation .... 


. D. G. Rossetti . 






104 


"Sweethearts" 


E. K. Johnson . 






106 


*I1 Palazzo Dandolo 


. Harry Quilter . 






. 114 


Madonna .... 


. Perugino . 






. 118 


*Dante's Dream 


. D. G. Rossetti . 






122 


Portrait of Frank Holl . 


. Renouard 






. 126 


*The Lonely Shore 


. Harry Quilter . 






• 134 


Homewards .... 


. E. Waterlow, A.R.A 






138 


*Italian Landscape . 


. M. R. Corbett . 






. 142 


*The End of a Day 


. Esther Isaacs . 






149 


*Vanity Fair .... 


. George Pinwell . 






152 


The Duke of Gloucester and the Mu 


rderers Sir John Gilbert, R.A 


f. 




. 154 


*Strange Faces 


. Fred Walker, A.R.A. 






IS7 


Home . ... 


. G. D. Leslie, R.A. 






158 


*Study for « The Widower " . 


. Luke Fildes, R.A. 






160 


La Marchesa 


. Sir F. Burton . 






162 


*How they Met Themselves . 


. D. G. Rossetti . 






16s 


Venice. .... 


Clara Montalba 






168 


*The Close of a Day 


Arthur Lemon . 






172 


The Eavesdropper . 


William Hunt-. 






177 


*The Old Clock . . . . 


George Pinwell . 






178 


Les Amoureux 


. A. G. Binet . 






180 


The Gamekeeper . 


. William Hunt . 






182 


The Gipsies .... 


,, 






184 


The Staffordshire Lanes . 


. David Cox 






188 


*A Venetian Doorway 


. Harry Quilter . 






190 


*The Harbour, Polperro . 


„ 






198 


*The Passing of the Rain-Cloud 


. G. F. Watts, R.A. . 






200 


*Psyche ...... 


>J 






205 


*Herr Joachim . . . . 


)> 






2.T2 


*The Return of the Dove 


)J 






216 


*Sir Galahad 


J) 






2 20 



XIV 



TUU of Picture. 

*The Rain, it raineth ever 


Artist s Name. top 

y Day . . G. F. Watts, R.A. . 


ACE PAGE 


Black-Eyed Susan . 


. Fred Walker, A. R.A. 


226 


Le Reve 


. A. de Richemont 


228 


*Jezebel 


. H. S. Ricketts . 


232 


Almond Blossom . 
The Piazzetta, St Mark's 


. Alfred East . 
> . . . Samuel Prout . 


236 
240 


*Mary Magdalene at the 


House of Simon 




the Pharisee ..<- 


. D. G. RossetH . 


244 


Portrait of Wilkie Collin 


' • • ■ ■ • * . . 


247 


*The Tower of Ivory 


C. H. Shannon 


249 


Paysage 
*The Blind School . 


. Rapin .... 
. John Huybers . 


258 


Orphaned 


. E. K. Johnson . 


262 


Le Jour de la Visite k 1'] 


Hopital . . Geoffrey .... 


268 


*Study of a Head . 


. Alphonse Legros 


272 


" There's none so deaf a 


s those that won't 




hear " 


. E. Blair Leighton 


276 


*Soir d'Hiver . 


. A. G. Binet . 


280 


Lisette 


. S. Courtois 


282 


*Study . 


. John Lavery 


284 


A Primeval Bathing-Plac 


e . . . C. H. Shannon 


286 


Laboratoire . 


. E. Gelhay 


288 


*Study . 


George Clausen. 


290 


Dans les Bois 


G. de Souza-Pinto 


294 


*The Lemon Tree at Cap 


ri . . . Sir Frederick Leighton, P.R.A. 


297 


The Habit does not mal 


A the Monk . G. F. Watts, R.A. . 


302 


The Sisters . 


George Pinwell . 


306 


* Carting Hay 


. E. P. Bucknall 


310 


The Casuals . 


. Luke Fildes, R.A. 


314 


Sir William Bowman 


. W. W. Ouless, R.A. 


318 


*Les 6migr^s 


. Sir James Linton, P.R.I. . 


322 


On the Temple Steps 


. E. J. Poynter, R.A. . 


326 


Shine and Shower . 


. Henry Moore, A. R.A. 


328 


A Summer Shower 


C. E. Perugini. 


333 


*The Wings of the Wind 


. Alfred Hunt . 


338 


Louis XI. 


. Seymour Lucas, A.R.A. 


343 


*0n the Medway . 
C 


. W. L. Wyllie, A.R.A. 
XV 


346 



Title of Picture. 

The Harbour Bar 

Taormina 

Darby and Joan 
*The Last Load 

Fame . 

Portrait of a Lady 
*Study for " Her Mother's Voice " 

The Sleepy Pool . 
*St. Martin's in the Fields 

My Heart's in the Highlands . 

* Harrow .... 
Study of a Head . 

The Lady of Shalott 
A Summer Night . 
*The Silver Lining of the Cloud 
Ego et Rex Mens . 
Saturday Night at the Savage Club 
Poor Jack .... 

* Market Place, Wells 

The Conversion of St. Hubert 



Artist's Name. to face page 


Adrian Stokes . 


348 


J. MacWhirter, A.R.A. . 


352 


Dendy Sadler . 


356 


Mark Fisher . 


3S8 


E. Blair Leighton 


362 


John Pettie, R.A. 


36s 


W. Q. Orchardson, R.A. . 


366 


Ernest Parton . 


370 


W. Logsdail 


374 


J. Farquharson . 


376 


Fred Goodall, R.A. . 


378 


Albert Moore . 


380 


J. Waterhouse, A.R.A. 


382 


Albert Moore . 


384 


J. Aumonier 


388 


Sir John Gilbert, R.A. 


390 


W. H. Bartlett 


392 


P. R. Morns, A.R.A. 


394 


Albert Goodwin 


396 


Arthur Lemon . 


398 



XVI 




A NOTE ON THE ILLUSTRATIONS. 

HERE are several illustrations included in this book 
concerning which no reference will be found in the 
text, and which are not such as the Author himself 
would select for his personal gratification. These 
have been inserted for the sake of rendering the 
pictorial record of Contemporary Art complete, and their discrimina- 
tion may well be left to the reader's perception. 

With regard to the four sketches of my own here inserted, I wish 
to state that the two Venice drawings were done nearly ten ydars 
since, and that the pictures of " The Harbour, Polperro," and " A 
Lonely Shore" were painted out of doors in Cornwall in 1887 and 
i88g respectively, and exhibited at the "Institute" in those years. 
Their merit or demerit must be left to the reader ; they are placed 
here merely as examples of my student work. 

I am desirous of tendering my hearty thanks to the artists, 
private owners, and Fine- Art dealers who have . kindly allowed me 
to use their pictures or copyrights, or who have done sketches 
expressly for me. The names of these are as follows ; those which 
are printed in italics being the last-mentioned class : — 

E. K.Johnson, R.W.S., Albert Moore, R.W.S., Clara Montalba, 

R. W.S., E. Waterlow, A.R.A., M. R. Corbett, Arthur Lemon, A. de 

Rickemont, G. Rapin, E. Blair Leighton, A. G. Binet, S. Courtois, 

John Lavery, George Clausen, Henry Moore, A.R.A., Alfred Hunt, 

xvii 



R.W.S., W. L. Wyllie, A.R.A., Adrian Stokes, J. MacWhirter, 
A.R.A., Mark Fisher, W. Q. Orchardson, R.A., Ernest Parton, 
W. Logsdail, Fred Goodall, R.A., J. Aumonier, Sir John Gilbert, 
R.A., P. R. Morris, A.R.A., Albert Goodwin, R. W.S., T. M. Rooke, 
Sir John Millais, R.A., Ford Madox Brown, W. Holman Hunt, 
Edward Burne-Jones, A.R.A., Sir F. Burton, G. F. Watts. R.A.,* 
Sir Frederick Leighton (and John Ruskin), W. W. Ouless, R.A., 
Luke Fildes, R.A., E. J. Poynter, R.A., C. E. Perugini, Seymour 
Lucas, A.R.A., Dendy Sadler, Joseph Farquharson, J. Water- 
house, A.R.A., W. H. Bartlett, Alphonse Legros, Charles Fairfax 
Murray, Sir James Linton, Sir Julian Goldsmid, Messrs. W. Agnew 
and Sons, Messrs. Macmillan and Co., the Proprietors of the Graphic, 
Messrs. Virtue and Sons, Alexander Henderson, to whom my thanks 
are especially due for allowing his beautiful pictures of " Sir Galahad " 
and "The Return of the Dove" (G. F. Watts, R.A.) to be photo- 
graphed for this work alone, and George Rae. 

This, I believe, completes the list of the obligations which I wish 
to acknowledge most gratefully ; should any name be inadvertently 
forgotten, I trust the omission will be pardoned. Much of the 
information in the Pre-Raphaelite Essay was obtained from Ford 
Madox Brown, John Seddon (the architect), Madame Bodichon, the 
late Thomas Woolner, R.A., and, under the circumstances stated 
elsewhere, W. Holman Hunt. To these also my best thanks 
are due. 

1 Mr. Watts most generously placed at my disposal the whole of his gallery, and left 
me free to choose what I liked. I trust I have not exceeded the limits of modesty ; but the 
temptation was great. 



xvui 



A CHAPTER IN THE HISTORY OF PRE- 
RAPHAELITISM: INTRODUCTORY. 




N the April of 1886 I suggested to the Editor of the 
Contemporary Review that a short series of two or 
three articles, giving the personal history of the Pre- 
Rapha,elite Brotherhood, would probably be attractive 
to the public ; and at his request I undertook the 
task. On setting to work the idea occurred to me 
that the paper would be far more likely to attract popular attention 
if it were written by one of the " Brotherhood," and circumstances 
showed clearly that this practically meant Mr. Holman Hunt, for 
Sir John Millais had steadily refused to write on this subject, and 
had moreover abandoned to a very considerable extent his earlier 
method, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti had been dead for more than 
three years. 

When I suggested this idea to the Editor, he at once approved 
of it, if I could arrange the terms satisfactorily, and would be 
responsible for the literary form of the article ; at least I was to edit the 
paper, and see that it was suitable for a Review. This was done. I saw 
Mr. Hunt and persuaded him to write the account in question, the 
money part of the matter was arranged satisfactorily, and all promised 
well. When, however, the MS., or a part of it, was sent me by Mr. 
Hunt, I perceived at once that whatever might be the interest from 
a religious and quasi-metaphysical point of view, it was not what either 
the Editor would like, or the public want to hear about the P.R.B. 
In a word, there was too much preamble, too little fact, and the 
arrangement of what incidents were included was desultory and 
somewhat haphazard. The writing of articles, in fact, is not a busi- 
ness which can be evolved out of the inner consciousness, and of all 
article-writing perhaps that kind which seeks to tell an absolutely 
plain story consecutively, is the most difficult to the amateur, who 
will insist upon disquisition, preamble, illustrations, and, worst of all, 
purple patches of descriptive writing. 



My position was now one of some difficulty. Mr. Hunt was a 
friend — and a celebrated artist for whose work I had high admiration 
and respect ; on the other hand, the Editor of the Contemporary 
(also a friend) had embarked on this paper at my suggestion, and on 
my guarantee had offered a considerable sum of money for the 
article: I was at once bound to see Mr. Bunting^ through, and 
most desirous not to offend Mr. Hunt. I knew, or thought I 
knew, what the public wanted to know about the P.R.B., and that 
Mr. Hunt could tell it to them : only he had not done so, and 
unless the paper were remodelled I felt its success could only be 
very partial. Under the circumstances, I did what was perhaps 
unjustifiable, i.e. wrote the first portion of the article myself, chiefly 
on facts obtained in conversation from Mr. Hunt and notes supplied 
by him. I can't remember at this lapse of time whether I took 
down any of his actual words, but I think not. My memory was 
then a good one, and with the help of the painter's notes, I could trust 
it to reproduce accurately the information supplied to me. Mr. 
Hunt and myself revised the proofs, the paper was signed with his 
name, duly appeared, and was instantly and peculiarly successful. 
Very generously Mr. Hunt offered me a cheque for half the amount 
received, but I did not feel that I could accept any money for what 
I had not done under my own name, and what I would not have 
done at all had it not been for the peculiar circumstances. 

Though I do not know that any one was specially wronged there- 
by, and though a not inconsiderable proportion of articles- signed by 
celebrated names are doubtless actually written by journalists, on the 
facts which the supposed authors supply, it had never been my lot 
to be mixed up before with that species of literature, and it made me 
a little uncomfortable. It is one thing being accustomed to sell your 
brains, and another to sell your prejudices, and my education had 
taught me only the former. 

After the cheque was declined however, an arrangement was 
come to between Mr. Hunt and myself, whereby I was to have the 
right of re-publishing this article (and the subsequent paper in con- 
tinuation of the same subject) in a book which I had in contempla- 
tion on the "History of Pre-Raphaelitism." I had previously 
received and collected a good- deal of interesting information about 
the pre-Raphaelites, and I thought the embodiment of Mr. Hunt's 
description of his early struggles and personal reminiscences would 
greatly add to the interest of my work, especially if appropriately 
illustrated by the early pictures of the Brotherhood. To make a 
long story short, my book was proposed to a publisher (and was 
indeed sold to him), but was never written, for shortly after my 

1 The Editor of the Contemporary Review. 
2 



agreement with the publishers had been signed, and when I had 
with considerable difficulty procured permission to include repro- 
ductions of many of the most interesting pre-Raphaelite pictures in 
my history, an announcement appeared in the Athenceum that the 
papers in question, revised, and added to, were to be published by 
Messrs. Macmillan. I was indeed hoist with my own petard ! 

The first result was that my history was abandoned. The pub- 
lishers told me frankly, and quite reasonably, that Mr. Hunt's 
re-publication would certainly "take the wind out of my sails," and 
rather than go on with the agreement they paid me a small sum for 
the work already done on the book, and we tore up our contract. 
I expected with considerable interest the publication of Mr. Hunt's 
book, which Messrs. Macmillan had announced as to appear 
"shortly." The autumn came and passed, the weeks, the months, 
the years rolled by, picture after picture grew steadily to comple- 
tion under Mr. Hunt's skilful hands, but the Chronicle of pre-Raphael- 
itism, though six years have since passed, remains an unpublished 
chronicle still. 

Life is short, and I have waited long enough for my pre-Raphaelite 
brother, and have therefore decided to include in the present volume 
some of the material I once collected for the use of my book. I 
bear no grudge against Mr. Hunt; no doubt he thought he was 
acting within his right, in the first place; and in the second, 
his long delay was — well — to be expected! And I have not the 
slightest desire to make out a case for myself as an aggrieved person. 
But I think it necessary, for the sake of my own credit, that the 
public should know I am not, even in the few quotations inserted 
from the papers in question, using another man's brains in availing 
myself of work which I originally projected, carefully edited, cor- 
rected, and wrote no small portion of with my own hand. To this I 
have only to add that I have indicated wherever this paper is 
quoted. 

The more important, and hitherto unpublished, reminiscences 
obtained from Mr. Ford Madox Brown are also shown, as are the 
few notes given me by Mr. Woolner, R.A.^ The first of these were 
told me by the artist himself, chiefly in reply to questions, and 
were taken down on the spot by my shorthand secretary. Mr. 
Brown was, during the whole time of our conversation, painting on 
the frescoes of the Manchester Town Hall, and subject to con- 
tinual interruption; I must here express my great obligation to 
him for the kindness with which he gave me all the information 

^ Since writing this article, Mr. Woolner has died. It is too late for me to make any 
alterations in the text, so if any expressions occur therein which may seem inappropriate at the 
present time, I hope the above fact will be borne in mind. — October loth, 1892. 

3 



in his power — information of specially valuable character, as will be 
seen hereafter. 

The story of the pre-Raphaelite movement is the story of four 
great artists and generous -minded enthusiastic men. It is the 
story, too, of enthusiastic effort in the cause of art : and in connec- 
tion with such effort it may almost be said that there can be no such 
word as failure. Certainly, in this case, though the Brotherhood 
lasted but a very short while even in name, though its members were 
few, and, with exception of the leaders, undistinguished and ineffec- 
tive ; though the founders themselves were very quickly separated 
in aim, and very partially true to their professed principles : the 
movement so inaugurated has had permanent and most enlivening 
influence upon all contemporary English painting. Opponents of 
the theory, if theory be not too large a word for the somewhat 
contradictory principles and practice of these P.R.B. painters, 
have nevertheless been led to modify their practice in view of 
the results attained by their opponents — all unconsciously much of 
the spirit of pre - Raphaelitism has crept into Academic work, 
and even where the form of this latter has remained unchanged, the 
traditional practice has, as it were, been supplemented and informed 
by greater intellectual consistency, more intelligent and thorough 
study of accessories and probabilities, and an attention to detail 
which was unknown before 1 848. 

It would be an interesting task to show how far this change is due 
to the influence we are considering, and how it has been affected by 
the spirit of French art, which has also undergone a complete 
revolution during the same period. The Barbizon School, the School 
of Idyllism in Landscape, xSio. '' plein air" school, the "Impres- 
sionists," are all, like the celebrated person who spoke prose without 
knowing it, unconsciously to themselves pre-Raphaelite workers: 
men who are seeking for truths of nature and emotion for themselves 
instead of in traditional fashion. But this would lead me too far 
in the present instance, and could hardly be made clearly intel- 
ligible to the reader without an elaborate series of illustrations 
from the pictures of the French painters. 

In the following pages there will not be found (to the best of my 
belief) any allusion to facts and occurrences, the relation of which 
would give pain either to the pre-Raphaelite painters or their friends 
and relatives. I have written neither as an advocate nor an opponent, 
but by the relation of plain facts, have endeavoured to dispel some of 
the misapprehensions which have become current on the subject, and 
to consider the practice of these painters in relation to their person- 
ality as well as to their supposed theories. A good deal of very 
eloquent and high-strung rubbish has been written about the pre- 

4 







^Ifli?^ 



-%*» 



STLDV OF HEAl; FOR ISABEI,LA SFIMM;R 



Raphaelite movement, and the instigators of the revolt have been 
credited with many wonderful aims and theories of which they were 
most innocently ignorant: but in truth they were very like other 
brilliant young men in their sturm und drang period, and had few 
theories which they did not abandon, or aims which they did not 
forsake. 

\X. is very difficult at the present time to arrive at the actual raison 
ditre of the P.R.B., as it was called by its members ; for, whatever 
was the aim, it was soon abandoned, and the members of the asso- 
ciation went thenceforward on separate and individual lines. The 
one principle which, howeyer, was at first their ruling one, was that 
of painting each subject from one model, and if the picture was of 
such a kind as to need a landscape background, making a separate 
and original study for that picture as far as possible under the con- 
ditions of light which the subject required. Millais especially was 
most particular on this point, and it was partly Madox Brown's dis- 
sension about the single personality of the model which prevented 
the latter from associating himself nominally with the P.R.B. Even 
this principle, however, was soon abandoned by the majority of the 
members, though not before some very fine results had been pro- 
duced,_ such as the orchard in " The Light of the World," the mossy 
red-brick wall of " The Huguenot," and the lovely landscape back- . 
grounds of the "Autumn Leaves" and the "Ophelia." In con- 
nection with this theory of seeking for an actual physical environment 
for the drama of their pictures, there was the endeavour, so finely 
characterised and insisted upon some years after this period by John 
Ruskin, of representing that action in terms of actual thought and 
emotion, rather than in conventionally artistic manner : to show a 
scene as it was or might have been, instead of as it might prettily or 
gracefully be arranged. Very possibly this idea dictated the choice 
of name. Seeing in the prints and casts from the Italian pre- 
Raphaelite painters and sculptors the desire for expression rather than 
the desire for artistic perfection, these young men may have jumped to 
the conclusion, illogical, but not wholly unreasonable, that there was 
a necessary connection between the simplicity of form in the earlier 
work, and its intensity of meaning, and thence reasoned that if they 
could only throw overboard all the later artistic traditions, they 
might be able to embody in modern work the simplicity, directness, 
and appeal of early Italian painting. The probability is, however, 
that their theory was less profound, less conscious, at all events until 
Ruskin gave expression thereto in his famous essay. The truth is 
that at this time, not only in England, but in Germany, in France, 
and even in Italy, an analogous influence to the pre -Raphaelite 
practice was springing up in all directions. A wave of tradition- 
questioning was sweeping over the world of art, as over that 
of science and religion : the study of nature and natural fact was 

5 



advancing by leaps and bounds : conventionalities were for the 
moment forgotten ; the times were ripe for change. 

And at this happy conjunction of things the pre-Raphaelite 
practice shaped itself, little by theory, much by instinct and sym- 
pathy, and borrowing here and there the form of ancient art, leaped 
forth to point the way to the art of the future. 

Had the leaders only been true to themselves, had they been more 
fortunate in their partners and disciples, and less bitterly attacked 
and injudiciously applauded, there might have grown up in England 
from this movement the most magnificent art of modern times, for 
never before, and certainly never since, had so bold, and, on the 
whole, so successful an attempt been made to weave together in one 
strand of meaning and beauty the loveliness of the outside world 
and the emotions and interests of humanity. Moreover, the root 
idea of all fine art, the search for perfection, was here of the very 
essence of the aim, and, while maintained, gave dignity and interest 
even to the least successful example : set free the genius of these 
young painters from all hindering circumstance ; and started them for 
a new world of beauty, where there should be, as Emerson said — 

" Neither great nor small 
To the soul which maketh all ; 
For where it cometh all things are, 
And it Cometh everywhere." 

This was not to be — Ruskin, informed and urged by Coventry 
Patmore, saw the intellectual and artistic possibilities of the move- 
ment, and gave them expression in those letters to the Times which 
remain to this day as models of passionate special pleading ; but 
his heart and head were full of other work, and at the critical 
moment he left England for Switzerland and Italy; and though 
he never altogether withdrew his sympathy from the art, he in after 
years ceased to hold any communication with Rossetti or Millais, and 
little with Holman Hunt. The press critics and the Royal Acade- 
micians made short work of the pre-Raphaelites — short work in 
the sense of derision and abuse. The latter skied or rejected most 
pre - Raphaelite pictures, the former laughed at or abused them 
according to the humour of the moment. I can myself call to mind 
the utter scorn and blame which were showered upon such pictures 
as Mr. Burne-Jones's " Seasons," "Love amongst the Ruins," " Night 
and Morning," when they were exhibited at the "Old Society" 
and the Dudley Gallery, and this was at least ten or twelve years 
after the date of which I am speaking, and I also remember well 
the day the committee of the Water-Colour Society themselves took 
down Mr. Burne-Jones's picture of "Phyllis and Demophoon," 
because one of their patrons had declared its nudity to be shameful. 

6 



On this occasion both the painter and the President, Mr. (now Sir 
Frederick) Burton, resigned. 

But to return to these earlier days, it has been said that the 
P.R.B. were not true to themselves or each other : the fact seems to 
be that after the first early years of their associateship, though the 
old friendship remained unimpaired, all consonance of aim had 
entirely disappeared. This can hardly be properly understood with- 
out some consideration of the different temperaments and ambitions 
of the three leaders, Rossetti, Holman Hunt, and Millais. But 
before doing this I must show clearly, by the consideration of 
Madox Brown's own painting, and the record of his pwn words, 
how irresistible is the evidence that he was in all but name the real 
founder and leader of the pre-Raphaelite movement : the inspirer 
AS WELL AS THE TEACHER of Rossetti and Holman Hunt ; and how 
unnecessary it is to go back to Ghiberti gates and Orcagna and 
Mantegna frescoes for the theory of truth to nature, simplicity, and 
reality which this master had already grasped in his foreign student- 
hood, and was actually exemplifying in His pictures before Rossetti and 
Millais had left the Royal Academy schools, or Holman Hunt had 
entered them ! In doing this I ask my readers' patience to allow 
me first to say a few words about Madox Brown himself — and to 
believe that they are written in no spirit of partizanship or friendly 
exaggeration. My words can be proved to be true by any one who 
will take the trouble to examine the evidence for them, who will 
examine for himself Brown's pictures, or will even consider carefully 
the reproductions of them which I have given in the quarto edition 
of this book. 




II.— FORD MADOX BROWN: THE TEACHER OF 
DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI AND 
HOLMAN HUNT. 

" One of the finest colourists living."— Z>. G. Rossetti of Madox Brown. 

HERE are more things in London town than are 
dreamt of in our philosophy, and here is one of them. 
Within three hiiles of the Royal Academy there still 
lives and paints one of our greatest artists ; who is the 
true founder of the movement usually called pre- 
Raphaelite, and the teacher of Holman Hunt and 
Rossetti, the man whose genius the former "silently recognised" nearly 
half a century ago, and of whom Rossetti spoke as above only three 
years before his death. In a small house on the side of Primrose 
Hill, without a studio save his sitting-room, without recognition from 
the public, the press, or the Academy authorities, in but indifferent 
health, and with narrow if not failing income, this great man lives, 
who for half a century has given the public work of absolutely unique 
quality, original, thoughtful, industrious, and beautiful. He lives 
there, poor, brave, and patient still, encompassed, I yet am glad 
to think, with the love and respect of a few true-hearted friends, and 
carrying out to the last the doctrines which he has shown alike in his 
painting and his life, of thorough work, independence, and honesty. 
In the mad competition for wealth and notoriety which surges 
round him, in the ingenuities of advertisement and the duplicities of 
commerce, he has, and has ever had, no part ; above all has he lacked 
the will to conciliate or truckle to the powers that be : he has dared 
to live his honourable, kindly, industrious life after his own fashion, in 
truth and honour. 

Is it desirable, is it decent, is it tolerable, that such a noble servant 
to art and England should be so neglected and forgotten ! We pension 
our Under-Secretaries of State after five years' service, our soldiers 
after five-and-twenty — might we not pension our artists when they 
have worked for us fifty years ! Pension I mean in the manner that 

8 



they would most desire ; pension them with a smile, a few kind words, 
perhaps even a " Well done, thou good and faithful servant ! " I don't 
feel at all clear that Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen might not 
as well "shake hands" with Madox Brown as with an aged negress 
from South Carolina ; or, if knighthood still may be taken to have its 
olden significance, there are few workers in England who would 
better deserve and dignify such honour. 

Believe me, for once, readers who care for justice and gratitude, I 
am not speaking rashly, or without warrant : these words are not 
exaggerated, are not the result of friendship or ignorance. These 
facts are true, as they are pathetic, as they are intolerable. This 
artist is a splendid one even now, when ill-health and great age have 
perhaps somewhat lessened the cunning of his hand and the keenness 
of his eye, and when long-continued neglect and misunderstanding 
have saddened the spirit which they had no power to sour. 

I challenge any reader of this book to look at the pictures herein ^ 
which I shall presently describe, of " Work," " The Last of England," 
"Cordelia's Portion," and "Cromwell at St. Ives," and not confess 
that in every one of them is shown not only technical power and 
knowledge of the most disciplined and extended kind, but a dignity of 
intellectual aim, a purity of sentiment, and a breadth of conception 
such as we cannot parallel in any other single English artist now 
alive. 

Knowing that this is so, and knowing too that half a century ago 
some of the greatest artists living thought Madox Brown's cartoons 
for the frescoes in the House of Lords the finest in the whole com- 
petition ; and that since then he has spent fifteen years at little more 
than journeyman's wages in painting the frescoes of the Manchester 
Town Hall, I say once more emphatically, here is one unjustly 
neglected who deserves well of the nation. " Who is on my side ? 
who will help the good cause of gratitude and justice ? " 

The cause might be helped, might be won so easily, if only — it is 
a big if, I know — the press, metropolitan and provincial, would take 
it up. 

One article in each newspaper in England, and the thing would be 
done. Think of it, editors who yourselves so often work for years 
without recognition or reward ! think of it, brother journalists who 
fling your brains into the gutter weekly or daily to gain a house- 
painter's wages ! think of it, artists, and critics, and the great wide- 
spread race of occasional correspondents, and for once let us unite to 
thank a great artist and a brave man for the pictures he has painted, 
and the example he has set ! 

1 Quarto Edition. 

c 9 



This is not a Jan Van Beers, whose pictures are in Bond Street, 
and whose heart is in the Quartier Brdda ; nor a Solomon J. Solomon 
newly escaped from the Salon Menagerie. This is not a painter of 
babies' frocks, big-hatted young ladies in villa gardens, Chippendale 
interiors, Venetian alleys, Scotch mists, or Newly n fishwives ; but he 
is a painter who has pierced to the heart of deep emotions, and con- 
ceived the very aspect of great deeds, who has brought history home 
to our perceptions as a reality, who has preached to us in simple 
manly fashion of the dignity of labour, the consolations of love, the 
fury of jealousy, the triumph and the tragedy of conquest, the most 
vital incidents of our nation and our life. 

I do not ask, nor wish, for my friend the reward of money, which 
I know to-day is not given to unfashionable art. Give him only 
that which is so clearly his due, the reward of esteem and honour. 
Leave him in his studio-less house with the few who love him, 
and who will give to his personal life all it needs of comfort and 
affection — but publicly, is it not possible that, with all our South 
Kensingtons, our Guildhalls, our Academies, our National Galleries, 
our Luxembourgs, and in fact with all our apparatus for making art 
progress — whither ? — we might do something to show that we know 
— even though late — a great man when we have got him, and are 
not above manifesting to him our knowledge and our praise ? 

I hope very earnestly that the above words may have some little 
fruit: perhaps that would have been more likely had they been 
written with less apparent vehemence : the tone is, I fear, as the 
Home Secretary wrote to the Rev. Francis Eden,i "intemperate, 
out of place, and without precedent." 

Let me now try to show how far my words are justified by Brown's 
pictures. 

The historical ones I must dismiss very briefly, for space would 
fail me to discuss them adequately. They range from the " Wil- 
helmus Conquestator," originally executed in Paris in 1844(1), and 
exhibited at the Westminster Hall competition, when it was called 
" Harold," to the " Cromwell," passing by the way " Chaucer at the 
Court of Edward HL," " Wyclifife reading his Translation of the Bible 
to John of Gaunt," " King Rdn^'s Honeymoon," and the whole series 
of Manchester frescoes, of which the first is of the building of 
Manchester by the Romans, and the last brings the history of the 
city down to our own time. Allied to these historical works are the 
religious pictures, and the semi-historical scenes from Shakespeare, 
the Mort d Arthur, and Byron : of one of these, the " Cordelia's 

1 Pardon for quoting an almost more unfashionable author than Brown is an artist, 
Charles Reade. 

10 



Portion," I give here (in my quarto edition) an autotype reproduc- 
tion. Besides these, there are many elaborate designs for stained 
glass, nearly all of which are of historical, religious, or legendary 
subjects, and were executed while Brown was a member of the 
Morris, Marshall, Faulkner, and Company firm, of which it is not 
generally known that Burne -Jones was also a partner. The greater 
part of the stained glass (which was the most important section of 
the business in early days) was executed by Madox Brown and 
Burne -Jones — the work of the latter being as magnificent as any 
he has ever executed, but somewhat transcending the limits of the 
material. These last were thoroughly understood and appreciated 
in Brown's work, and the artist's little note ^ as to the right use of the 
material is so entirely just and enlightening, that I quote it here- 
with : — 

"With its heavy lead -lines, surrounding every part (and no 
stained glass can be rational or good art, without strong lead- 
lines), stained glass does not admit of refined drawing ; or else it 
is thrown away upon it. What it does admit of, and above all 
things imperatively requires, is, fine colour; and what it can 
admit of, and does very much require also, is invention, expression, 
and good dramatic action. For this reason, work by the greatest 
historical artists is not thrown away upon stained-glass windows, 
because though high finish of execution is superfluous and against 
the spirit of this beautiful decorative art, yet, as expression and 
action can be conveyed in a few strokes equally as in the most 
elaborate art, on this side therefore, stained glass rises again to 
the epic height." 

No less than two hundred cartoons for this class of work Brown 
told me a few days since he had in "a big box there." 

The modern section of our artist's painting comprises his best- 
known pictures, a good many portraits, nearly all treated pictorially, 
and a great quantity of pencil and chalk studies. In the last-men- 
tioned medium especially the work is of rare excellence, and I know 
few more quietly and securely beautiful things in modern art than the 
chalk portrait of the painter's wife. Two of these modern pictures 
are, I believe, the most perfect examples of the complete realisation 
of an imaginative conception which the world has ever seen : they 
are essentially pre-Raphaelite in the sense which Ruskin understood 
the word ; and I am proud to be able to add that though London 
practically rejected them, both are in public permanent galleries — 
one at Birmingham and the other at Liverpool." These are " The 
Last of England" and "Work." 

" The Last of England " is, according to the painter, in the 

* In the catalogue of his exhibition, 1863. 

^ Both reproduced in the quarto edition. 

II 



strictest sense historical. It treats of the great emigration move- 
ment which reached its culminating point in 1852; but I do not 
think that, in the future years, men will think most of the history of 
the subject. Surely I need not describe the incident of the picture : 
a weak and broken-down husband, his face full of brooding passion, 
leaving the land where hope and health and fortune have alike failed 
him. A young and beautiful wife holding his hand in consolation 
and support, while half seen beneath her shawl a tiny hand in its 
turn clasps hers with the unconscious trust which is to be her future 
recompense — in the background the rout of steerage passengers, the 
hurrying sailors, the tug casting off, and the chalk cliffs of England 
growing faint in the distance. He, in Saul's darkest hour ; she, with 
sorrow too deep for tears, but not for trust and hope — for " the circle 
of her love moves with her." Such is the circumstance of the 
picture. I am glad to think it is not so easy — is, indeed, scarcely 
possible — to set down any adequate record of its beauty and its 
power. To the present writer, at all events, there is no modern 
picture which in expressional interest and insight can be considered 
as equal to this; and there is only one, "The Huguenot" of Sir 
John Millais, which can equal the beauty of the woman's face, with 
the lovely features shadowed but not distorted with unselfish grief, and 
unflinching trust and love. I may perhaps be pardoned for pointing 
out that, leaving these emotional realities on one side, the concep- 
tion of the artist has not arrested itself at the expression of the 
dramatic and personal feeling of his subject, but has worked out in 
fullest detail and accurate subordination the various accidents of the 
scene — and in inserting each of these has chosen his detail in obedi- 
ence to a clear intellectual purpose. Let us hear what was the 
artist's own point of view and description of how the picture was 
painted — 

" This picture, begun in 1852, was finished more than nine years ago 
(i.e. in 1856). To ensure the peculiar look of light all round, 
which objects have on a dull day at sea, it was painted for the 
most part in the open air on dull days, and when the flesh was 
being painted, on cold days. Absolutely without regard to the art 
of any period or country, I have tried to render this scene as it 
would appear. The minuteness of detail which would be visible 
under such conditions of broad daylight, I have thought necessary 
to imitate, as bringing the pathos of the subject more home to the 
beholder." 
I will not enter here upon any actual description of the second 
picture, " Work" : the finest pure pre-Raphaelite picture in the world, 
as it appears to me. It hangs in the Corporation Gallery at Liver- 
pool, "plain for all folk to see"; in colour a cut-open jewel; in 
meaning a sermon and a hymn of praise ; in conception the offspring 
of a big brain ; in execution the product of a master's hand. The 

12 



magnificence of gesture alone in the main group of workmen — the 
navvies—stamps the composition as the work of a great artist ; and its 
multiplicity of incident and meaning, the elaboration of the composi- 
tion, the novelty of the subject, and the completion, intellectual and 
artistic, of its rendering, are all entirely admirable. 

This is one of the great pictures of the modern world ; a record 
which will never be surpassed of certain facts significant to the well- 
being of our country and civilisation, and giving warning of certain 
dangers which lie in wait for us in the future. The "Cordelia's 
Portion," beautiful as it is in composition and in the expression in 
the faces of Cordelia and Lear, must rank below these last-mentioned 
pictures, if only because of dealing with a subject of less interest — 
less vital humanity. In this work the artist is illustrator only— not 
illustrator and poet — another has supplied the conception, he only the 
arrangement. There is also visible in this picture one defect, the 
only serious one I know in Madox Brown's art, and that is an uncon- 
scious admission — nay, it seems a preference for awkwardness of 
gesture, amounting occasionally almost to ugliness. In nearly every 
instance of this which I have noticed in Brown's work, the strained, 
or cramped, or exaggerated gesture appears to have been deliberately 
adopted rather than sacrifice an iota of the dramatic or intellectual 
meaning of the composition, and in this I think that the artist has on 
several occasions been decidedly in error. Perhaps the most marked 
instance is to be found in the picture of " Romeo and Juliet," where 
Romeo, still clasping Juliet with one arm, has the other stiffly extended 
in an aljsolutely horizontal line, which gives him the appearance of a 
semaphore rather than a human being. No doubt the suggestion 
that he " wants to be off," to keep his intention in the vernacular, is 
thereby indicated vigorously, but the gain in meaning does not com- 
pensate for the uncouthness of gesture. However, where so much 
is given us, we may well excuse an occasional drawback of this kind : 
we find the equivalent in the work of every great artist— each has 
some special shortcoming, in form, in colour, in manliness, in meaning, 
in brushwork, in subject, in carelessness, in insolence, in industry, or 
in feeling. 

I am writing of 3. great artist, not of a. perfect one ; there are no 
perfect artists, nor ever were ; and when a painter of to-day combines 
high aim, deep feeling, dramatic intensity, fine draughtsmanship, 
splendid colour, an unrivalled power of composition, and great intel- 
lectual power, we can tolerate some personal prepossessions which 
we might otherwise condemn. The truth is, that Brown never 
entirely shook himself free of the Gothic training he received at 
Antwerp under Baron Wappers ; the same element is to be found in 
the work of Baron Leys, which was in great vogue at Antwerp at 
the time of Brown's studentship. Antwerp was then, as it is now, 

13 



perhaps the strongest art school in Europe in the study of chiar- 
oscuro, and there the influence of the Spanish and Flemish Schools is 
mainly predominant — to use Brown's own words, " I had a mixed 
impression, but Rembrandt towered over all." His stay in Rome 
completed the impression, by showing him, as it were, the reverse of 
the medal ; and manifesting the practice of painters, the foundation 
of whose art was light and colour, instead of light and shadow; 
harmony instead of contrast. Before his stay in Rome, Madox 
Brown went to Paris, and there the first true germ of the pre- 
Raphaelite movement sprang into life in the determination taken by 
this young painter to make his pictures "real." Here are his actual 
words : "In Paris I first formed my idea of making my pictures real, 
because no French artist at that time did so. Meissonier was then 
only just beginning" (beginning to be known, Brown must have 
meant, as of course he had been painting for several years, and was 
indeed doing some of his finest work). " They (the French painters) 
had nothing new in light and shadow. The idea was my own. I 
walked about Paris with Casey and talked it over ; then my wife 
became ill, and I came back with an idea already made out. John 
Marshall's sketch was painted in Rome. Then I began the 'WyclifFe 
reading his Bible' ; this was the first thing in the Italian School." 
And this was also the first essentially pre-Raphaelite English picture. 
It was sold by the artist to Mr. M. Wilkinson, a banker, and within 
the past year it came to the hammer at Christie's. This work was 
succeeded by the only picture which Mr. Madox Brown considers 
to have been painted by him implicitly in the pre-Raphaelite style, 
" Pretty Baa-Lambs." Critics said there was a deep symbolical 
meaning in the picture ; the lambs, they said, meant Christ ; but it 
would be a pity if pictures were painted of little girls standing on 
their toes with their heads out of joint. These criticisms appeared 
in the Morning Star, of which Mr. Edmund Yates was then Art 
critic. 

Shortly after this, Rossetti, seeing Madox Brown's " Harold " at 
Westminster Hall, came to him and asked for admission to his studio 
as a pupil. This was granted, as I have said above, and the greater 
part of the following chapter treats of this student period, and the 
intercourse of Brown and Rossetti. 



14 




III.— DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI 
AS STUDENT AND FRIEND. 



OSSETTI was at once the strongest and the weakest 
member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Strong- 
est in the splendid individuality of his artistic genius 
(whether in poetry or painting), and strongest in intel- 
lectual insight and spiritual influence ; but weakest in 
self-restraint, in sensitiveness, and, if the truth must be 
told, in self-indulgence. A generous, morbid, passionate, hyper-sensi- 
tive nature, intensely beloved by his friends, whom yet he would treat, 
when the whim took him, with utter indifference ; very prone to 
suspicion and anger, and utterly reckless in his judgments on 
others, but gifted with such power of will, such personal charm, such 
generosity of impulse, and such brilliance of intellectual insight and 
artistic perception, that, in the eyes of his friends and admirers, all 
shortcoming was atoned for or forgotten. Very amusing is Brown's 
account of the way in which Rossetti's lessons used to be received by 
the pupil, and very characteristic the behaviour of Rossetti, and the 
matter-of-fact way in which his master treated him — setting him 
down to still-life groups, in which " an old tobacco canister figured 
as one of the chief objects. Rossetti was most impatient of this 
work. He used to clean his palette on sheets of notepaper, and 
leave them lying about on the floor, and they would very often 
stick to my boots when I came in in the dark." 

Here is, sans phrases, the beginning of the Pre-Raphaelite Brother- 
hood, and the source of the inspiration of its chief member — an 
impatient pupil fuming at the representation of a tobacco canister, 
and littering the studio with palette scrapings which stick to his 
master's boots ! 

And take another, a little anecdote told me by Brown which 
shows alike Rossetti's impatience and his exacting nature in trifles. 

15 



"He had no objection to drapery on lay figures, as is generally sup- 
posed. On the contrary, so far from hating lay figures, he had two 
or three very expensively got-up ones, and also a very expensive 
thing like a sentry-box in which to place them. And he would have 
his place arranged on such occasions as if it were a State affair, or as 
if Gladstone were expected to arrive. He was, indeed, fond of 
purchasing anything expensive simply because it was expensive. 
One day he came into my studio, where I had a lay figure set all 
ready, and walked towards it, whereupon I exclaimed, 'Gabriel, 
don't go near that,' and he shouted, ' Good God Almighty, how can 
I remember this ? I have a box made for my figures, and my friends 
can walk about without touching them.' " 

This sort of spirit seems to have run throughout his life : he could 
not understand that other people should not do as he did, and if they 
did not, he was angry as frankly as a child would be. There 
was, it seems to me, much more of the Italian than the English 
nationality in him, and his moments of excitement, his fits of depres- 
sion, his mad pranks, and madder suspicions, the nature of his 
intellect, his queer mixture of business capacity and utter childish- 
ness, his moral contradictions, were all such as are common enough 
in Italy, but rarely met with in our own country. Italians aire at 
once, as far as the experience of the present writer goes, the most 
sentimental and the most practical men in the world ; children in 
feeling, and as shrewd as a Yankee speculator in business matters. 
With all his eccentricity there were few better men of business in the 
artist world than Rossetti, and though he treated the purchasers of 
his pictures with scant courtesy, he rarely lost a commission thereby. 

Here is a characteristic anecdote of his later period in this con- 
nection. George Rae is a fine judge of art, and a banker at 
Birkenhead, and was from the first an admirer and purchaser of 
Rossetti's work, but on one occasion Rossetti asked him more 
than he wished to give for a picture ("The Bride"). Rae went 
away and came back in a few days afterwards, when Rossetti 
greeted him sarcastically, "Why, I thought you were on your 
way back to Birkenhead." Rae asked him what he wanted for 
the picture, and Rossetti said 300 guineas! "Why," said Rae, 
"you offered it me for ^^250!" "I really do not remember," 
said Rossetti ; "perhaps I did; but why the devil didn't you take it 
when I offered it you ? Well, then, you have me ; you can have it 
for yx) pounds. If the odd shillings are of any use to you, Rae," he 
said in a most lordly style, "you are welcome to them." This, says 
Madox Brown, was essentially Rossetti's nature in dealing with a 
banker — and, indeed, other folks beside bankers were apt to be 
treated according to the whim of the moment. I asked Madox 

i6 



Brown once whether he did not think that Rossetti's friends made a 
mistake in putting up with so much from him, and whether his sensitive- 
ness and morbid feeling were increased by their tolerance. But he 
seemed to think that this was not so, especially in the earlier years 
of his life : he " always had a lot of sycophants, but they did it from 
a good feeling, and not from any hope of gain to themselves. I 
think, too, it was really a case of mutual flattery." Perhaps the most 
curious contradictions of Rossetti's character were in the matter of 
money; he was utterly extravagant in the purchase of whatever 
took his fancy, and yet would hesitate and bargain about the most 
necessary expenditure. In the same way with his pictures, he would 
at one moment talk as if art were degraded by the most distant 
reference to its commercial value, and at another would write or 
speak as if that value were his primary object. Hear him on the 
subject of some gamekeeper's daughter, whom he has never seen. 

"By the bye, he tells me, from your information, that thei"e is a 
British beauty on hand in the shape of a gamekeeper's 
daughter. Do you- think one could ask her to sit for her 
portrait in chalk ? I daresay I could brush off fifty guineas' 
worth of her at a sitting or two, and would give her a sketch 
of herself besides. But ought one to ask ? " ^ 

And again, a few weeks later, apparently with reference to the same 
model. 

" Sophy Burgess' head I have sold already for fifty guineas, so trade 

has not been quite at a standstill. I think when I finish S I 

shall give him a nimbus and call him his Redeemer ; by which 
title he may be made to pay. This sounds base, I perceive, on 
reading it over." 

The truth is that, even to his art, Rossetti's attitude of mind 
was incalculable and inconsistent ; at one time reverencing it as a 
religion, at another seeing in it only a means of livelihood to be 
resorted to when money was desirable. His hours of work, too, were 
equally fitful. On occasion he would paint without intermission for 
several days, and then do nothing for a week : fits of energy and idle- 
ness succeeding one another suddenly. As he once wrote to a friend, 
he "was an inveterate Southerner," and did "not know what was to 
be got out of the North save rheumatism, and a habit of swearing." 
The last he certainly acquired to great perfection. 

His best drawings he was very loath to part with, valuing them even 
more, highly than his pictures ; and on the whole with justice, for they 
are equally beautiful, and superior in some technical qualities. Coloured 
chalk has never been used with greater subtlety or delicacy than in 

1 Letter to Madame Bodichon. 
D 17 



some of these ; but his actual painting (brush work) is, in all but his 
very finest period, uncertain and tentative. 

There is considerable reason to believe that Rossetti felt this incom- 
pleteness himself, for in the later years of his life he was very fond of 
retouching the earlier pictures, and in several cases by no means to 
their advantage. From the beginning he was very fond of starting 
pictures, very impatient of continuing, very loath to finish them. 
During the time of the Newnan Street Studio, Brown tells me that he 
began twelve pictures one after another, none of which were finished. 

" He, Rossetti, came down to my house at Finchley one day very 
cold and wet, and went into the kitchen. He was evidently 
greatly depressed, and said to me, ' I cannot paint ; I can write a 
sonnet, but I cannot paint. It is a delusion one gets into one's 
head. Millais, Hunt, you, can paint, but I can't.' I said, 'Oh 
nonsense, you must try and rouse yourself; this is your twelfth 
picture, and unless you break the spell you will never do anything 
in your life.' He gave a sort of laugh — he was in a frightful state 
of depression — and called himself a fool. After that he painted 
some water-colour sketches, and found he could finish them with- 
out much difficulty." 

The following anecdote of Rossetti refers to this early period when 
he was working in Madox Brown's studio, I give as usual in the 
latter painter's own words. 

" He had a most beastly bit of alpaca for the drapery of his lay 
figure, which would not make folds nor sit properly. He had 
worked at this for a whole week, and it seemed to me that he 
would go mad, I told him to leave it alone, that that piece of 
alpaca would never make proper folds. He exclaimed, 'God 
Almighty, what am I to do ? it is the colour, it must do; I cannot 
get anything else,' It finished in this way — he got a little china 
palette and stuck this upon his easel, and then sat upon the 
ground with his drawing-board, leaning against the easel, when 
down came the whole lot, and the china palette breaking, cut his 
hands, ' This has ended it all,' he cried out ; ' I shall have lock- 
jaw, and a very good thing too. I have had quite enough of this 
work.' I said, ' Nonsense, Gabriel, people don't have lock-jaw 
simply because they cut their thumbs.' ' If people cut their 
thumbs,' he said, 'they always have lock-jaw : well, I am glad, I 
shall never touch this picture again,' and he never did." 

There is rather a misconception prevalent as to the prices fetched 
by Rossetti's early work. From the first these were by no means indif- 

i8 




ONE OF KOSSETTrS AKJOELS 

DAN 11- GAURIEL J^USSETTI 

From the craMjn driiwin;; in the pos^csMoii of the aullior 



ferent, especially when we remember that forty years since prices were 
altogether lower than of late. I can remember well that as late as 
the "Bicknell" sale (somewhere about i86i), the highest price which 
a water-colour painting had ever been sold for at a public auction was 
^630 : this was impressed upon my memory from the fact of my 
father having purchased the work, which was the Rievaulx Abbey of 
Copley Fielding. Some fifteen years later also, at Christie's, this 
picture realised nearly 2000 guineas, and fine water-colours generally 
had during that period more than doubled in value. 

Rossetti's usual price at this time for a water-colour sketch was 
between twelve and twenty-five guineas, and a good many of these 
were taken by Ruskin at that price : they were always a small size. 
He used to do them in about a fortnight without models (alas ! for 
P.R,B. theories). Sometimes, however, he would have models, and 
then it was an affair of six months or so. One of these twelve-guinea 
sketches has since been sold by auction for £4^0. 

This period — about 1852 — was the hardest, financially speaking, of 
Rossetti's life. He had just then a persistent run of ill-luck — one 
thing coming after another — and he had not yet settled what it was he 
wanted to do in art : he was finding himself His landlord swindled 
him ; Ruskin (who had at first helped him), to use Madox Brown's 
express words, "funked it and hooked it" to Switzerland, and a 
dealer who had given him a large commission failed. This picture 
was never finished, but was repainted in later years. 

Of all Rossetti's paintings, it is the only one with which I am 
acquainted which deals realistically with a scene of modern life, and 
I cannot help thinking that either the scene or its treatment must 
have been suggested by Holman Hunt. In any case " Found " 
forms a perfect sequel to "The Awakening Conscience" of the last- 
mentioned artist. The origin of the composition was a ballad entitled 
" Rosabell" — a ballad by W. B. Scott, a painter and poet, and warm 
sympathiser with the P.R.B. This was about 1858 (according to 
Madox Brown), about ten years after the founding of the Brotherhood. 

I have given a short description of this picture in a subsequent 
chapter, which deals more especially with the characteristics of 
Rossetti's art; suffice it to say here that the "unfortunate calf," 
referred to below by Mr. Madox Brown, played an important though 
subsidiary part in the tragic story of the picture. The reproduction 
here inserted is from a pen-and-ink drawing in the collection of Mr. 
Fairfax Murray, and it is to be noted that the face of the countryman is 
different from that of the oil-picture, and far finer in expression. There 
seems to be no doubt that the original picture was left unfinished till 

19 



1 882, and was then taken up again, slightly altered, and considerably 
injured in repainting. It was a passion with Rossetti in later years 
to retouch his earlier compositions, and I am assured by a large 
collector of his paintings that several in his possession were almost 
entirely spoilt by being lent the painter for that purpose. 

But to return to " Found." 

"Rossetti painted several of these sketches (the water-colours 
above alluded to) in my house at the same time he was going on 
with that unfortunate calf. He was six weeks on that calf in 
a miserable farmyard. The calf was three days old when he 
commenced, and when he ended the calf used to jump into its 
own cart, and put itself into position. 

" The farmer was very kind ; and lent him the cart and other things 
he wanted. He used to stand in the yard in a lot of muck and 
slush, and I thought he was certain to catch a fever of some 
sort. He never began to paint till one, and left off about four, 
because of the light." 

Before continuing with these reminiscences, let us see what manner 
of man Rossetti was at this time in outward appearance ; at all events, 
in the eyes of his intimate friend Holman Hunt : — 

" Imagine a young man of decidedly foreign aspect, about 5 feet 
7^ in height, with long brown hair touching his shoulders, not 
taking care to walk erect, but rolling carelessly as he slouched 
along, pouting with parted lips, staring with dreaming eyes — the 
pupils not reaching the bottom lids — grey eyes, not looking 
directly at any point, but gazing listlessly about ; the openings 
large and oval, the lower orbits dark-coloured. His nose was 
aquiline but delicate, with a depression from the frontal sinus 
shaping the bridge ; the nostrils full, the brow rounded and 
prominent, and the line of the jaw angular and marked, while 
still uncovered with beard. His shoulders were not square, but 
yet fairly masculine in shape. The singularity of gait depended 
upon the width of hip, which was unusual. Altogether, he was 
a lightly-built man, with delicate hands and feet; although 
neither weak nor fragile in constitution, he was nevertheless 
altogether unaffected by any athletic exercises. He was careless 
in his dress, which then was, as usual with professional men, 
black and of evening cut. So superior was he to the ordinary 
vanities of young men that he would allow the spots of mud to 
remain dry on his legs for several days. His overcoat was 
brown, and not put on with ordinary attention; and with his 
pushing stride and loud voice, a special scrutiny would have 
been needed to discern the reserved tenderness that dwelt in 

20 



the breast of the apparently careless and defiant youth. But 
any one who approached and addressed him was struck with 
sudden surprise to find all his critical impressions dissipated in 
a moment; for the language of the painter was refined and 
polished, and he proved to be courteous, gentle, and winsome, 
generous in compliment, rich in interest in the pursuit of others, 
and_ in every respect, as far as could be shown by manner, a 
cultivated gentleman. (I hate the word in its canting sense, but 
here in its least presumptuous significance it has a meaning 
which no other word would so accurately convey.) To one who 
lived with him he showed an inexhaustible store of accomplish- 
ments, yet from his uncontrollable temper under the trials of 
studio work, it was clear that he had been a spoilt child." 

" First, to complete the picture of Rossetti, I should say that fre- 
quently he would leave his day's appointed task to engage 
himself with some design or poem that occupied his thoughts. 
When he had once sat down and was immersed in the effort to 
express his purpose, and the difficulties had to be wrestled with, 
his tongue was hushed, he remained fixed and inattentive to all 
that went on about him ; he rocked himself to and fro, and at 
times he moaned lowly, or hummed for a brief minute, as though 
telling off" some idea. All this while he peered intently before 
him, looking hungry and eager, and passing by in his regard 
any who came before him, as if not seen at all. Then he would 
often get up and walk out of the room without saying a word. 
Years afterwards, when he became stout, and men, with a good, 
deal of reason, found a resemblance in him to the bust of Shake- 
speare at Stratford-upon-Avon, and still later, when he had out- 
grown this resemblance, it seemed to me that it was in his early 
days only that the soul within had been truly seen in his face. 
In these early days, with all his headstrongness and a certain 
want of consideration, his life within was untainted to an exem- 
plary degree, and he worthily rejoiced in the poetic atmosphere 
of the sacred and spiritual dreams that then encircled him, how- 
ever some of his noisy demonstrations at the time might hinder 
this from being recognised by a hasty judg:ment." 

Thus we obtain in Madox Brown's recollections of his friend, and 
from Hunt's description, a tolerably clear presentment of Rossetti's 
personality, which is borne out by all I have learned from other 
sources. We see before us an impetuous, generous, enthusiastic 
man, richly endowed with genius and almost irresistibly attractive to 
his friends ; we see too a glimpse of the reverse side of the medal, of 
his feverish energy, his impatience of restraint, his easy discourage- 
ment, his fits of depression, his uncontrollable temper. Such is the 

21 



stuff of which in every age of the world the "Seer," the Prophet, has 
been made ; he who, at once less and greater than those amongst 
whom he lives, demands alike their faith and their toleration, their 
admiration and their pity, their obedience and their help. And these 
were given to Rossetti without stint or murmur, and he took them 
and played with them, or cast them aside as the whim of the moment 
dictated, no one questioning his right, I don't know that there is 
anything more touching or interesting in this whole story than the 
tacit and unconscious testimony borne by Mr. Madox Brown and Mr. 
Holman Hunt of their "care" for their friend : of the way in which 
they strove to give him just the help he needed — to raise his spirits, 
to forward his art, to make him work. Take as an example of this 
an incident in the story of the " Beata Beatrix," a commission from 
Lord Mount Temple, now in the National Gallery. It was com- 
menced at the Hermitage on the hill at Highgate. Soon after it 
was begun Rossetti fell seriously ill, and John Marshall (to the last 
one of his most faithful friends) and Madox Brown took him away 
to Scotland. Brown left him at Stobhall, having to return to Eng- 
land. " Before I left him I said, Let us send him the * Beata 
Beatrix,' as I knew he had a commission for it from Lord Mount 
Temple, and he was very hard up at the time. He said it was 
ridiculous to expect him to work at that time. Well, I heard 
afterwards of what took place. Rossetti took it out one day and 
looked at it and put it away again : then he looked at it again, then 
he started on it, and in a week the work was finished and ^ 300 was 
paid to him." 

This picture is a representation of Rossetti's wife, and many stories 
are told in connection with it, but these do not concern me here. 
And I would remind my readers that the omission of those incidents 
in Rossetti's life, and those traits of his character which were con- 
nected with his relations to women, is entirely intentional. 

No mention could be made of this portion of his story without 
giving much pain to relations and friends, nor does the present writer 
believe that the private life of any artist, however famous, falls 
within the limits of the justifiable criticism of a contemporary, though 
in after years it may perhaps be fitting to consider how far the art 
produced was weakened and impaired by frailty and excess. I should 
not even have inserted here the anecdotes of Mr. Madox Brown 
depicting Rossetti's variable temper and want of self-control, were it 
not that hitherto almost the only recorded personal traits of this man 
have been those of intimate friends and relations, or intense sympa- 
thisers. These partizan records, though natural enough and even 
considering their origin praiseworthy, have given to some extent a 
false impression of the artist's character, and of the circumstances 
surrounding the pre-Raphaelite movement. 

22 



IV.— WILLIAM HOLMAN HUNT 
AND HIS FIGHT FOR ART. 




N the last chapter I have endeavoured to discuss 
the chief personal characteristics of Rossetti, give 
some incidents of his early artist -life, his aims 
and financial difficulties, and show the kind of influ- 
ence he exercised over his comrades. Let me now 
pass to Mr. Holman Hunt and attempt a similar 
task. And here at the outset the difficulty occurs, that almost the only 
information we have on the personal life of this painter rests upon 
his own authority. In one way, of course, that is the best authority 
possible ; in another it is almost the worst for the telling of the story 
of pre-Raphaelitism. No man probably who ever lived could look 
back to the struggles of youth and the share he took in the promulga- 
tion of any great movement, and see quite without prejudice the exact 
proportion of his influence, and the exact measure of his action. 
Unless we can correct, as is possible with Rossetti, the testimony of 
himself, or his relations and partizans, by that of those who are more 
impartial judges, we must always remain a little doubtful whether the 
narrator is not erring, now on the side of modest self-depreciation, 
now on the reverse, and we must accept his account of motive and 
aim with a certain reserve. Even to ourselves we exercise some 
reticence in our most expansive moments, and our personality stands 
to us almost equally compounded of what we are and what we would 
be. In Holman Hunt's case such correction is impossible, and so 
it is very natural that, in the notes which follow of Mr. Hunt's early 
life, we should miss some of the light and shade necessary to a perfect 
understanding of the man, and only see as it were the presentment 
of his artistic personality. Moreover, in the eyes of his contem- 
poraries that personality was in some ways overshadowed by those 
of his more brilliant and dashing comrades, and possibly by their 
more fortunate circumstance, for in the first years of their career, both 

23 



Rossetti and Millais were free from the grinding money anxieties 
which beset Hunt from his youth onwards, Rossetti, truly, was 
always in financial difficulties, but they were almost entirely due 
to his extravagance and improvidence. Millais appears to have 
earned money from the time he was fifteen, if not earlier, and both 
living and painting at home, and having parents of comfortable 
middle-class" means, had not even the expense of a studio to keep up. 
As we have seen, at the age of twenty he had even saved ;^500. 

If we consider the great and continual success of Millais' student- 
hood, his dash and confidence, and perhaps above all his handsome 
face and figure, and then turn to the magnetic charm which the 
spirit and enthusiasm of Rossetti are allowed by every one to have 
exercised over his friends, we shall not be surprised if the third 
member of the triumvirate, who, though he shared in the artistic 
qualities of his comrades, had not any special personal fascination of 
his own, has been since chiefly known through his art. To this end 
no doubt Hunt's long absences in the East greatly contributed, as did 
a certain concentration of aim, and a curiously unconscious egoism 
of character. This last appears to me very clearly revealed in the 
following reminiscences, which show us not only the persistence, 
industry, and energy of the young painter, but also how keen was his 
eye to business, and how rapidly his prices rose directly the hour of 
success had struck. It is quite a mistake to suppose indeed that an 
artist as a rule, or any of these P. R. Brethren in particular, is, oi" was 
a bad man of business. Quite the contrary : of the three painters of 
whom I am speaking, it would be difficult to say which was the best 
hand at a bargain, but all were first-rate. If we could put together 
the total amount of money which they have received for their work, I 
doubt whether it would not exceed that of any other six painters in 
England, and it would certainly not be far short of half a million 
sterling. 

Much silly nonsense has been written and spoken about the pre- 
Raphaelites as artists who sacrificed themselves for their con- 
victions, and dwelt in an empyrean into which no considerations of a 
pecuniary character were ever allowed to intrude. The facts are 
entirely the other way, and such effort to make out that great artists 
are different from all the rest of the world, and are more or less than 
other men affected by the pleasures and desires of youth and man- 
hood, seems to me as ridiculous as it is futile ; as contemptible as it is 
false. Why should not Mr. Holman Hunt equally paint " The Light 
of the World," and write to Mr. Bridger (who was the lucky possessor 
of an art-union prize, value £']o), pointing out that " the amount of 
his prize was the exact price of my work, as he would see in the 
Academy list, and that I hoped it would please him to buy it " .■* Poor 
Mr. Bridger ! To such a pass had all his discourses over the studio 

24 



fire of " churches and brasses and other antiquarian matters " brought 
him. He seems to have died hard, however, for he replies to this 
"hope" of Hunt's "that he should look at all the pictures for sale; 
and if mine was the best he should choose it : if not he should take 
another. But after looking for a month or more, he came to mine 
and bought it." 

No, there is nothing inconsistent in an artist wanting a good price 
for his work, in driving as hard a bargain for its sale as possible. 
Two things only he must avoid in this connection. The first is, that 
he must recognise that what binds the purchaser binds also the artist ; 
or, in other words, that he is bound by the same rules of honesty and 
obligation as other folk who buy and sell. And the other is, that he 
must, before he sells, and after, do his work as well as he can — must 
not have two classes of work — one which he does on commission, and 
the other which he does for his own honour and pleasure. To these, 
perhaps a third may be added as most desirable, namely, that an artist 
who thus does his best for himself financially, should be specially care- 
ful not to claim, or to assume, an indifference to the pecuniary result 
of his painting ; for this is to run with the hare and hunt with the 
hounds, and is, moreover, unfair to the purchaser, who in pictures, as 
in other purchases, will not be wise to forget the wholesome legal 
maxim of " caveat emptor ! " 

To return to Hunt. His father was in very moderate circumstances, 
and seeing that his boy would have to earn his living, we can hardly 
blame him that he entertained the strongest objection to his becoming 
an artist. In fact, he would not listen to his son's wishes in this 
respect. Mr. Hunt, senior, appears to have entertained the common 
opinion of those days with regard to artists, i.e. they were a dissolute, 
reckless set of fellows, much akin to actors and authors, and other 
low-class individuals — 

. " perplext with impulses, 
Sudden to start off cross-wise, not straight on, 
Proclaiming what is right and wrong across, 
And not along, this black thread through the blaze." 

So, when he is twelve, Holman Hunt is taken from school, where his 
studies in design, chiefly in his copy-books, do not appear to have 
been adequately appreciated, and is placed with an auctioneer and 
estate-agent " as a sort of probationary clerk." 

The usual result follows : the probationary clerk gives his time to 
Apollo rather than Mercury ; in other words, draws portraits instead 
of leases, and paints the old orange- woman who rashly enters the office 
in search of a customer. " I won't buy your oranges," says Hunt, 
"but— I'll paint your portrait." You see. Mercury had taught him 
E 25 



something :^{\.tx all— how to seize the occasion. According to Hunt, 
" Old Hannah (the orange- woman) was delighted, and then and there 
I painted her on a bit of sized-paper in her habit as she lived, her 
basket on her head and an orange in her hand." Previously, however, 
the seduction of the house-agent has been accomplished by the young 
artist, for it turns out by the irony of fate that in his non-auctioneer- 
ing moments he has artistic proclivities. And coming one day into 
the office and finding his clerk shuffling something away in his desk, 
he demands to see it, and discovers that he " can draw." " This led 
to inquiries on his part as to whether I had painted, and it turned out 
that he was himself fond of art, and, whenever he could get a chance, 
practised painting. ' One day,' he said to me, ' when there's nothing 
much to be done, you and I will shut ourselves in here and have a 
day's painting together' ; and so it happened. Here were the tables 
turned upon my father with a vengeance ! I was getting artistic en- 
couragement from the very employer who should have been instilling 
into me commercial principles. This lasted about a year and a half, 
when, owing to my employer's retirement from business, I obtained 
another situation in the City at a Manchester warehouse in Cateaton 
Street, managed by a London agent of Richard Cobden. Here I sat 
by myself in a little room looking out on three blank walls, and made 
entries in a ledger, and seemed farther than ever from my desire of 
becoming an artist. But here too, curiously enough, another artistic 
friend turned up in the person of an occasional clerk whose business 
it was to design patterns for the firm's calicoes, etc. etc. Surrepti- 
tiously I also used to try my hand at designing, and attained sufficient 
proficiency to enable my friend to make use of my designs on various 
occasions. I remember an amusing incident of this period, which gave 
me great delight at the time. The window of my room was made of 
ground glass, and, having but little to do, I passed my time drawing 
with both pen and pencil flies upon its roughened surface. A good 
blot of ink sufficed for the body, and some delicate strokes with a hard 
pencil for the wings, and at a short distance the deception was perfect. 
Day by day the number of flies in that room increased, till one day, 
my employer coming in, stopped suddenly in front of the window and 
said, 'I can't make out how it is; every .day I come into this room 
there seem to be more flies in it,' and he took out his handkerchief to 
brush them away. 

" So the time went on slowly till I had been nearly a year and a 
half in the City, and disliked it more every day. My father allowed 
me to spend my little salary in taking lessons of a City portrait- 
painter, for it was only as a profession that he disapproved of artistic 
employment. The lessons I received from this artist ingrained 
certain habits and traditional practices of which in after years I had 
much trouble to be rid. My master was in his faults as- well as his 
virtues a follower of Sir Joshua Reynolds." 

26 



. Apparently Mr. Hunt, senior, was not therefore very fortunate or 
judicious in his attempts to wean his son from becoming an artist. 
First of all comes the auctioneer who is secretly devoted to painting, 
and then the lad is allowed to strengthen his natural artistic ability 
by technical practice under a master ; then, to complete the paternal 
discomfiture, the episode of Old Hannah the orange-woman, and 
the auctioneer's indiscreet admiration of her portrait, which he shows 
to all his friends; then the Manchester warehouseman and his 
clerk who designs patterns for calicoes, till finally the news of his 
son's artistic triumphs reaches the ears of Mr. Hunt, and there 
is, we may fancy, a little family explosion of the kind we all know, 
and the lad speaks out. " I will be an artist and nothing but an 
artist, and if you keep me in the City till I am twenty-one, you'll 
only be taking away so much of my chances of doing any good in the 
future." That's the upshot of what Hunt describes himself as saying 
to his father, and no doubt the father was secredy proud of his 

son's resolution, and openly told him he might go to the 

Academy — his own way, but that he must not expect to be 
supported on the journey. So here again was the existence of the 
P.R.B. secretly decided by such diverse elements and accidents as 
an auctioneer's propensity for painting, an orange -woman's lack of 
custom, and a father's tardy acquiescence in his son's ambition. For 
had it been five years later before Hunt had been able to devote 
himself to painting he would in all probability never have even met 
Millais and Rossetti, both of whom were senior to him in the 
Academy schools, and certainly would never have been the third 
founder of the P.R.B. At the date of the above conversation (1844) 
Hunt was sixteen. 

Then ensues what Hunt describes with evident truth as a " hard 
fight." Three days a week he paints portraits for a livelihood, when 
he can get any to do, for these windfalls are rare ; and on the other 
days he draws at the British Museum, either in the Sculpture 
Gallery or the Print Room. Sometimes he copies pictures, some- 
times " acts as journeyman to other copyists," but the most curious 
part of his work is the alteration of existing portraits — portraits 
which did not please their originals. Thus he puts another coat on 
the portrait of a Mr. Godfrey and changes his expression — to order.. 
The job is executed to Mr. Godfrey's satisfaction, and Hunt adds, 
with his admirable business instinct in full working order, "duly 
paid." 

We can hardly, I think, overrate the beneficial effect of this 
mixture of hard artistic study, and sharp struggle for the means to 
live while the study was being carried on, on the character of Hunt's 
subsequent painting, especially with regard to the carrying out of his 
pre-Raphaelite theories. Evidently industry and patience were 
daily taught the young artist by that best of teachers — necessity, and 

27 



in the opposition, tacit indeed but unfaltering, which his adoption of 
art as a profession encountered at home, his spirit was undoubtedly 
trained to endure and overcome the wider opposition which was to 
meet the style of his work hereafter. 

A year goes by in this way, and Hunt goes up to the Academy 
Schools. He is seventeen, and we might suppose from the joint result 
of Hannah and the portraits above mentioned, the calico patterns, the 
print room and the sculpture gallery study, and his youthful predis- 
position towards art, that his admission as a student would be tolerably 
certain. After all, if a lad wants to learn to draw at an Academy, the 
probability would seem to be that he does not know already, or in 
other words, that his work should be judged less by its compliance 
with rule and convention, than by its promise and indication of native 
talent. Such, however, is not, and never has been, the Royal 
Academy practice, and admission to the school has been granted only 
to those who could do after a certain highly stippled-up and elaborate 
fashion an antique statue. In the sculpture galleries of the British 
Museum there might have been seen any day during the past fifty 
years, and may be seen now, forty or fifty boys and girls, of all ages 
from ten to twenty, producing these useless and abominable chalk 
and charcoal drawings by the dozen — by the hundred. Six mortal 
weeks is the least time which each student spends in the vain 
elaboration of these antique models ; and the result is judged not by 
the manner in which the drawing has caught the spirit of the 
original — or " les grands contours du dessin," as my old master 
Legros used to say — but by the smoothness of the shading, the 
" polish," so to speak, with which the light and shade are rendered. 

No more stupid and absolutely futile method of selecting a student 
could be conceived than this : no more certain manner of preventing 
an artist in after life understanding and enjoying the beauty of antique 
art could be adopted than this of making him labour for weeks, 
without help or explanation, to reproduce the delicacies of light and 
shade, and the details of modelling which he has neither learnt to 
see, to enjoy, nor to understand. 

Well, anyhow Holman Hunt's drawings were not " polished " 
enough, and the Academy would have none of them at this date. 
After some months he tries again, having in the interval polished 
diligently, but still the work is not right, and again he is rejected. 
At this, his long-suffering father loses patience and delivers himself 
of an ultimatum in the form of a lecture, through which, despite its 
kindness, we can read a grim determination. 

" Then my father spoke very seriously. I was wasting my time 
and energy ; I should do no good as a painter. My drawings were 

28 



clever enough for friends to admire, but between them and the pro- 
fessional class there was a great gulf, and so on : winding up with, 
that he would allow me to try once more, but if that failed, ' I must 
go back to the City.' " 

_A year and a half had now passed since Hunt had left his 
high stool in the warehouse, and he was apparently no nearer his 
aim than before. We cannot blame the father's resolution, for we 
may conceive how difficult it was for him to believe that the lad 
was right, and the Academicians wrong in thinking that there was 
here no stuff out of which a great artist might be made. Still it 
must have been a nervous moment for Hunt when he stood for the 
third and last time between the worlds of commerce and art, waiting 
for the decision of the Royal Academy as to which should claim him. 
We know the result: even Jupiter sometimes nods, and this must have 
been an occasion, for the third drawing is — accepted. The City stool 
is vacant for ever, and Mr. Hunt, senior, goes back to his commercial 
avocations and his unfinished lawsuit, a wiser and a sadder man. Put 
not your trust in Academies, is probably his motto for the remainder 
of his days. 

Mr. Hunt gives very few dates — none precisely ; but his entrance 
to the Academy must have been towards the end of 1846. Millais 
(then fifteen) was there already, and had won the silver medal 
in the Antique School ; Rossetti, too, was a student, probably since 
1844. He had entered in 1843 Sim's Drawing Academy in Queen 
Street, Bloomsbury, a school then kept by F. S. Carey, son of the 
translator of Dante, and probably been admitted to the Academy 
in the following year. Had his entry been later Hunt would 
have met him, as he did Millais, in the antique sculpture 
room of the British Museum. This was not the case ; and it was 
about a year later that Rossetti spoke to Hunt for the first time 
(with one exception noted below), on the occasion of the exhibition 
of the latter's first picture at the Royal Academy — " The Eve of 
St. Agnes" (1848). This led to Rossetti's calling at Hunt's studio, 
and subsequently to the formation of the P.R.B., but this portion 
of the story is so important that I must deal with it in a separate 
chapter. 



29 




v.— THE FOUNDATION OF THE 
PRE-RAPHAELITE BROTHERHOOD. 



[his will be a convenient place to glance at the 
English Art of this period, as it appeared to the 
three men who were soon to influence it so materi- 
ally. That there is a great difficulty in doing this 
satisfactorily will be understood if the reader will 
bear in mind that one of these painters (Millais) 
was little given to expression of his beliefs ; another (Rossetti) 
was so enthusiastic and changeable that he was led away entirely 
by the feeling of the moment ; and the third (Hunt), though he has 
put down in his notes reflections on various painters, has not done 
so in such a manner as to lead us to believe his views were either 
clear or determinate. Hunt's writing is in fact, if I may be pardoned 
for saying so, as ?<«-pre-Raphaelite as is well possible ; it is, in studio 
phrase, " blottesque," conventional, and " treacly." 

I have tried to the best of my ability to extract from the views of 
this painter some consistency of principle and idea, but have failed 
to do so save in one or two instances. The nearest approach to a 
definite idea is his dislike of prettiness, which turns up in one form 
or another in most of the criticisms. In Landseer it appears as 
" pomatumy texture " ; in Etty, " Parisian paper-hanger's taste " ; and 
" cloysome richness and sweetness " ; Mulready is injured by his 
taste for prettiness; Maclise by his for glamour; Leslie's style is 
"miniature"; and Murillo's "large 'Holy Family' in the National 
Gallery" is "rubbish." From such remarks the bias against pretti- 
ness is evident enough, but that is by no means an uncommon bias 
with artists. In a subsequent description, where Hunt tells us of 
the quattro-centists he did admire in the National Gallery, we find 
less to guide us. Francia, Garafola, Van Eyck are the only names 
mentioned ; and there is a sudden dash of panegyric on some details 
of the "Sta. Caterina" of Raphael and the " Bacchus and Ariadne" 

30 




THE GLADNESS OF THE LAND 

C. H. SHANNON 

From the original drawing in the possession of the author 



of Titian. The really great pre-Raphaelite masters appear to have 
attracted no notice from him at all— we hear nothing of Giotto and 
the Giptteschi, nothing of Carpaccio, the Bellinis, Mantegna, Orcagna, 
Angelico, Masaccio, Memling, Quentin-Matsys, and, strangest of all, 
considering Hunt's prepossessions, of Albrecht Durer. On the other 
hand, we^find an early portrait of his mother by Rubens spoken of as 
" possessing this characteristic of care and humility," and a Holbein 
as fascinating him by its delicate painting. 

On the whole, in fact, I cannot discover from Hunt's own 
description of his artistic prepossessions in these student days that 
there was any idea whatever in his mind analogous to. that which 
Ruskin afterwards attributed to him. It is true that in a later 
portion of his reminiscences he states more or less definitely that this 
was the case, but this statement is made so much in the very words 
of Ruskin, and is so obviously a reflection of the defence of pre- 
Raphaelitism by that great critic, that we may, I think, especially 
when we remember that it was not written till forty years after 
the events described, assume it to be rather the interpretation of the 
writer, than the record of the artist. I find it myself quite impossible 
to believe that a student who represents himself as having been a 
frequenter of the National Gallery and an admirer of early Italian 
and Flemish work therein, could have been (as he is represented by 
Ruskin) so profoundly moved by seeing some engravings of Ghiberti, 
as to have his principles entirely modified thereby — or could find in 
them qualities of truth and simplicity which he had never found in 
the other paintings of that period. Moreover, such a conversion is 
not only incredible, but was in this instance entirely unnecessary. 
Painting flies on the window of his master's counting-house was 
Hunt's real conversion to pre-Raphaelitism — old Hannah the orange- 
woman was his Ghiberti, and his slavery at commercial portraits, and 
the re-coating of Mr. Godfrey and his friends, the school in which 
he learned fidelity of detail, industry, and patience. Another bit of 
real instruction, inspiration — in the old sense of the word — Hunt 
received about this period at the National Gallery. While he was 
copying Wilkie's "Blind Fiddler," a visitor "looking over me said 
that Wilkie painted it without any dead colouring, but finished 
each bit as fresco was done." The speaker (we are not told his 
name) had been the painter's pupil. Hunt calls this the first bit of 
genuine instruction he had received, and one which " in some ways, 
perhaps, determined the course of my artistic life." He does not, 
very properly, count the nominal instruction given in the Royal 
Academy Schools ; in fact, says plainly that there was none worthy of 
the name — in which opinion Mr. Watts, Royal Academician though 
he be, is quite at one with him, saying frankly of his studenthood 
there, which must have been but slightly before Hunt's time, " finding 

31 



there was no teaching, I ceased to attend." On this instruction 
of Wilkie's pupil, Hunt begins to remodel his practice : he tries for 
definite meaning and precision in each touch ; he endeavours to get 
rid of all careless, "loose," irresponsible handling; he purifies his 
style, and it is from this point of view — the technical point of view — 
be it observed, that he grows to admire the early workers whose 
practice had been founded on fresco. 

The opinions of Rossetti at this period appear to have been chiefly 
influenced by his literary tastes. His brother, indeed, tells us that 
he studied Retsch's outlines, and used to fill in his sketches for a 
drawing club to which he belonged from a series of lithographs by 
" Filippo Pistrucci"; and he disliked the conventional English and 
French pictures alike in treatment and subject, hating them with 
equal impartiality ; but with antique art I cannot find that he con- 
cerned himself at all, his predilections being entirely in favour of the 
romantic and mediaeval poetry, and this chiefly of the northern nations. 
His study of Dante did not, according to his brother, begin till 1844, 
at which time he was already familiar with Scott, Byron, Keats, 
Coventry Patmore, Mr. Browning, Tennyson, and Shakespeare. The 
Nibelungen Lied also was a great favourite, and a little later came 
Coleridge and W. Bell Scott. Illustrations to one or other of these, 
and subjects of a quasi -poetical, quasi -religious nature, such, for 
instance, as the "Girlhood of Mary Virgin," formed the staple of his 
art-work in these years, when he was but an infrequent attendant at 
the Academy Schools. It is notable that the mediaeval bias thus 
early acquired, and very plainly evident in both the " Annunciation " 
and the "Girlhood of Mary Virgin," never entirely deserted him, 
nor did he ever entirely abandon the use of symbolism. How 
different were the practice, the education, and the aim of Hunt I 
have just shown — as different as had been his early reading of 
Homer and Plutarch, geometrical and mathematical books, and the 
auctioneer's ledger. A strange dislike of sculpture was at this time, 
and, I believe, later, a characteristic of Rossetti's art feeling ; and I 
cannot find that, apart from his Shakespeare study, the drama either 
written or acted influenced him. It must be remembered also with 
regard to his religious compositions, that not only was Rossetti an 
Italian by descent, but he was by training, no matter how much he 
may have abandoned the creed in after life, a Catholic. The arrange- 
ment of bringing up the girls in the religion of the mother, and the 
boys in that of the father — adopted by the Rossettis — was more 
common then than now. No doubt the Catholic influence working 
through Dantesque poetry coloured his painting from the first, as 
indeed it coloured his poetry, but the religious side of his art was 
always more apparent than real. I can find neither in the records 
of the man's life, all given by friends and partizans, in his letters, of 

32 



which I have many and have read more, nor in any of his writings 
or pictures, any really religious feeling. A spiritual aspect there is 
to his art, but of a most indefinite and dreamy character : more a 
protest against the empire of the body than a forgetfulness of its 
influence. 

Of Millais I have as yet said nothing, because his part, then as 
now, was not the part of the thinker, the reformer, or the dreamer, 
but the part of the doer. He was the " Good-tempered man " of the 
comniunity, caring nothing much for all these details of theory or 
principle, tradition or sentiment, but ready always to fall in with his 
friends' views, reflect his friends' feelings, and sometimes even, if all 
tales be true, borrow his friends' conceptions. 

" With these brief hints as to the views of the three young artists, 
let us hear how they founded their celebrated association. 

Rossetti had seen at the Academy, and been greatly pleased with 
Hunt's " Eve of St. Agnes," and after congratulating him warmly 
thereon, had asked if he might come to Hunt's studio, and " thus the 
three Pre-Raphaelite Brethren were first brought into intimate rela- 
tions." Before this Millais and Rossetti had known each other, and 
Hunt and Millais had made acquaintance at the Museum, but the 
three had not associated together. The result of the acquaintance is 
that Rossetti takes a studio with Hunt in Cleveland Street, and thither 
continually comes Madox Brown full of advice for his pupil Rossetti, 
and with a little to spare for his pupil's friend ; and thither comes also 
Millais, " his spirit on fire with eagerness to seize whatever he saw 
to be good." Hunt has a solid capital of £^0 from his art-union 
prize and " £'j from portraits " (what is your price nowadays for 
a portrait, Mr. Hunt, I wonder ?), and Rossetti — but no one knows 
now, or ever did know, what Rossetti had or had not in the way of 
money. I suppose, however, he bought his draperies, and three 
expensive lay figures, and that sentry-box arrangement to put them 
in, which tickled his master's fancy so much. 

•One evening the comrades go to tea with the Millais family, and 
there are shown, to pass away the evening, I suppose, which possibly 
went rather slowly, "a book of engravings of the frescoes in the 
Campo Santo at Pisa." Let Hunt tell the story himself: — 

" It was probably the finding of this book at this special time 
which caused the establishment of the Pre-Raphaelite Brother- 
hood. Millais, Rossetti, and myself were all seeking for some 
sure ground, some starting-point for our art which would be 
secure, if it were ever so humble. As we searched through 
this book of engravings we found in them, or thought we 
found, that freedom from corruption, pride, and disease for 
F 33 



which we sought. Here there was, at least, no trace of decline, 
no conventionality, no arrogance. Whatever the imperfection, 
the whole spirit of the art was simple and sincere — was, as 
Ruskin afterwards said, ' eternally and unalterably true.' Think 
what a revelation it was to find such work at such a moment, 
and to recognise it with the triple enthusiasm of our three 
spirits. If Newton could say of his theory of gravitation, that 
his conviction of its truth increased tenfold from the moment in 
which he got one other person to believe in it, was it wonderful 
that, when we three saw, as it were, in a flash of lightning, this 
truth of art, it appealed to us almost with the force of a revolu- 
tion ? Neither then nor afterwards did we affirm that there 
was not much healthy and good art after the time of Raphael ; 
but it appeared to us that afterwards art was so frequently 
tainted with this canker of corruption that it was only in the 
earlier work we could find with certainty absolute health. Up 
to a definite point the tree was healthy ; above it, disease began : 
side by side with life there appeared death. Think how dif- 
ferent were the three temperaments which saw this clearly. I 
may say plainly of myself, that I was a steady and even 
enthusiastic worker, trained by the long course of early diffi- 
culties and opposition of which I have told the story, and 
determined to find the right path for my art. Rossetti, with 
his spirit alike subtle and fiery, was essentially a proselytiser, 
sometimes to an almost absurd degree, but possessed, alike in his 
poetry and painting, with an appreciation of beauty of the most 
intense quality. Millais, again, stood in some respects midway 
between us, showing a rare combination of extraordinary artistic 
faculty with an amount of sterling English commonsense. 
And, moreover, he was in these early days, beyond almost any 
one with whom I have been acquainted, full of a generous, 
'quick enthusiasm ; a spirit on fire with eagerness to seize what- 
ever he saw to be good, which shone out in every line of his 
face, and made it, as Rossetti once said, look sometimes like the 
face of an angel. All of us had our qualities, though it does 
not come within the scope of this paper to analyse them fully. 
They were such as rather helped than embarrassed us in work- 
ing together. 

" ' Pre-Raphaelite ' was adopted, after some discussion, as a dis- 
tinctive prefix, though the word had first been used as a term 
of contempt by our enemies. And as we bound ourselves to- 
gether, the word ' Brotherhood ' was suggested by Rossetti as 
preferable to clique or association. It was in a little spirit of 
fun that we thus agreed that Raphael, the Prince of Painters, 
was the inspiring influence of the art of the day ; for we saw 

34 



that the practice of contemporary painters was as different from 
that of the master whose example they quoted, as established 
interest or indifference had ever made the conduct of disciples. 
It was instinctive prudence, however, which suggested to us 
that we should use the letters P.R.B., unexplained, on our 
pictures (after the signature) as the one mark of our union. 

The first work that we agreed to do after this was a series of 
designs for Keats' ' Isabella.' These were to be executed 
entirely on our new principles, and subsequently etched for 
publication. Millais chose as his subject the household of 
Lorenzo's brothers at meals. Rossetti at first made excuses for 
procrastination. I did one of Lorenzo at his desk in the ware- 
house, in order that thus (with Millais' design) the lover's 
position in the house should be made clear to the spectator 
from the outset. Though Millais had much oil work on hand 
which had to be finished in the old style, he was impatient to 
begin in the new manner, and he announced his determination 
to paint his design. But his old work still hung about, until 
we were almost doubtful of the time before the sending-in day 
being sufficient for the task, when suddenly, about November, 
the whole atmosphere of his studio was changed, and the new 
white canvas was installed on the easel. Day by day advanced, 
at a pace beyond all calculation, the picture now known to the 
whole of England,^ which I venture to say is the most wonder- 
ful painting that any youth still under twenty years of age ever 
did in the world. 

' In my studio Rossetti's plan of work promised to do all that was 
desired. The picture was 'The Education of Mary Virgin,' 
and he had advanced it considerably, but, from his unchecked 
impatience at difficulties, the interruptions to our work, to mine 
as much as to his, were so serious that once I had to go out 
walking with him to argue that, without more self-restraint on 
his part, we should certainly lose our chances of appearing, in 
the same season, in a band with Millais. He took this remon- 
strance in the best part, and applied himself with new patience 
to his work, which ultimately possessed in the important parts 
the most exquisite beauty and grace; he exhibited it subse- 
quently in a gallery in Portland Place. Millais' picture was 
seen with wonder when finished, and he sold it before his 
' show ' day. My ' private view ' was without any visitors, but 
the picture was delivered by myself in the evening, still wet, at 
the Academy. Before we were admitted to varnish our 
pictures we learned that they had been hung as pendants to 

^ " Lorenzo and Isabella." 

35 



one another in fair places just above the line, and in the Times 
I remember the notice of the exhibition began with two columns 
of comment upon our pictures as the remarkable feature of the 
collection. The fact itself was an unexpectedly gratifying 
testimony to the impression the works had made. On going 
to the Academy at seven in the morning (to get the longest 
opportunity, if necessary, for work before the public were 
admitted at twelve), we were received by many of the members 
with cordial compliments — some introducing themselves to me 
for this purpose — but there was an opposing spirit of indignation 
expressing itself loudly by some artists." 

To make a long story short, Rossetti's picture was sold on the 
private view day. Hunt's shortly afterwards for £\QO, through the 
intervention of Egg, one of the Royal Academicians. The purchaser 
was Mr. Gibbons, who appears to have bought the work, if we may 
trust Hunt's account, as a matter of charity, for he did not hang it 
in his collection, and on his death it was the only picture sold by the 
family. As I shall not have occasion to refer again to this com- 
position, I may add here that there was perhaps some little excuse 
for this proceeding on the part of Mr. Gibbons and his family, for 
the " Rienzi swearing to avenge the Death of his Brother " is not a 
picture which even the admirers of Mr. Hunt would at the- present 
day esteem very highly. It is laborious in detail and execution, and 
of some dramatic power ; but the colour is remarkably garish and 
unpleasant, and the attitudes and gestures of the various figures 
awkward and strained. The same criticism applies to some extent 
to the succeeding picture by this artist, " The Christian Missionary," 
the landscape portion of which was painted on the Lea marshes, and 
which was exhibited the succeeding year, when it was hung as a 
pendant to the " Christ in the Home of his Parents," by Millais. 

"While we had been quietly working, the hostile feeling against us 
had shown itself to be wilder and more extended. A newspaper had 
in its gossiping column revealed the meaning of P.R.B., which had 
been disclosed, through the weakness of Rossetti, to a rank gossiper, 
and far and near it seemed as if the honour of Raphael was the 
feeling dearest of all to the bosom of England, and that this we had 
impiously assailed. The leading journals denounced our work as 
iniquitous and infamous, and, to make our enormity more shameful 
in extra-artistic circles, the great Charles Dickens wrote a leading 
article against Millais' picture in Household Words. This was an 
attack upon the whole of us, and though my picture was not men- 
tioned, the prejudice excited was more practically damaging to me, 
since Millais had sold his work, while mine had still the duty to 
perform of tempting 150 guineas out of the pockets of some admirer 

36 



or approver, before I could go on with a new work. Sometimes I 
went to the Exhibition stealthily, hoping to hear some opinion ex- 
pressed, but as soon as the public arrived at my picture they invariably 
said, ' Oh, this is one of those preposterous pre-Raphaelite works,' 
and went on to the next without looking again upon the canvas. 
One fellow-student, some years my senior, told me that he regretted 
to see me mixed up with this charlatanism ; that he perfectly under- 
stood that our object was to attract great attention to ourselves by 
our extravagant work ; and that when we had succeeded in making 
ourselves notorious (which, being undeniably clever fellows, we should 
soon do), we should paint pictures of real merit. I thereupon wickedly 
said that he had divined our purpose, and besought him to respect 
the secret. ..." 



37 



VI.— THE INFLUENCE OF JOHN RUSKIN. 




HE account given in the last chapter is curiously 
reminiscent even in language of that more cele- 
brated description of the founding of the Brother- 
hood by Mr. Ruskin — a description which I have 
shown some ground for believing was partly 
imaginary and wholly mistaken, not in the rela- 
tion of incident, but the explanation of aim. For though the 
movement and the inspiring influence of natural study and abandon- 
ment of convention were real and important enough, the choice of 
a name was scarcely more than a joke. The religious and moral 
principles with which Ruskin credited the young artists were, in 
truth, in the case of two of their number, entirely non-existent, and 
even with the third, at this time, extremely doubtful. Hunt himself 
says the name was chosen " in a spirit of fun " : Rossetti says, in so 
many words, that though the movement was real the Brotherhood was 
a joke ; so says Woolner ; so says Madox Brown. And though, 
perhaps, these painters in later years may have somewhat underrated 
or been ashamed of the seriousness of their youthful confederacy, 
there is the strongest intrinsic evidence that Ruskin's high moral 
and metaphysical explanation thereof was one of those ingenious 
theories of which he has given so many to the world, but which 
have no objective validity. On this point, however, where authori- 
ties contradict one another so flatly, the historian must decide by 
collateral evidence, all of which is in favour of the less serious 
interpretation of the " Brotherhood." 

The artist who most nearly approached to Ruskin's ideal, but 
non-existent pre-Raphaelite, was undoubtedly Holman Hunt. Yet 
■even his art is not essentially the realistic art at which Ruskin 
imagined the P.R.B. aimed. Hunt would disclaim the name of 
realist perhaps more emphatically than any other. I do not quite 
know what word he would take in its place, nor is it, I think, very 

38 



certain, or even probable that the painter could himself precisely 
define his position. The nearest approach to such a definition with 
which I am acquainted is comprised in the following quotation : — 

" While we differed so far, it may be seen that we were never, 
what often we have been called, realists. I think the art would 
have ceased to have the slightest interest for any one of the 
three painters concerned had the object only been to make a 
representation, elaborate or unelaborate, of a fact in Nature. 
Independent of the consideration that the task would put out of 
operation the faculty of' making man ' how like a god,' it seemed 
then, as it does now, that a mere imitator gradually comes to see 
Nature so clay-like and meaningless — so like only to what one 
sees when illness brings a heavy cloud before the eyes — that his 
pictures or statues make a spectator feel, not how much more 
beautiful the world is than she seemed before, but only that she 
is a tedious infliction, or even an oppressive nightmare. . . . On 
one other point there has been misapprehension which it is now 
time to correct. In agreeing to use the utmost elaboration in 
painting our first pictures, we never meant more than that the 
practice was essential for training the eye and the hand of the 
young artist ; we should never have admitted that the relinquish- 
ment of this habit of work by a matured painter would have 
made him less of a pre-Raphaelite. I can say this the better 
now because, although it is not true, it is often said, that my 
detail is microscopic, I have retained later than either of my 
companions the pencilling of a student. When I take to large 
brushes, and enrich my canvases with impasto, it will imply that 
the remnant of my life would not suffice to enable me to express 
my thoughts in other fashion, and that I have in my own opinion 
obtained enough from severe discipline to trust myself again to 
the self-confident handling of my youth, to which I have already 
referred." 
These words are particularly memorable in connection with 
Raskin's description of this movement, as they show that the great 
writer to a considerable extent misconceived even Hunt's position, and 
mistook the means adopted by him for training the hand and eye, for 
the actual and final aim of the painter. The " highest possible degree 
of completion" to which Ruskin alludes as the principle of pre-Raphael- 
itism was, we see, even with Hunt, but an incident of its practice — 
an incident which might or might not be abandoned when the skill of 
hand, to acquire which it had been serviceable, was gained. As might 
have been expected, this minute realisation ultimately shaped itself 
in the- work of each artist in accordance with personal idiosyncrasy. 
We can trace the influence in Millais' brilliant painting of texture 
and surface, we find it translated in Rossetti's art to a clear vision 

39 



of each symbolical accessory, and in Hunt's great religious pictures 
our attention is attracted by the multiplicity and the elaboration of 
the detail by aid of which the artist has worked out his conception. 
The difference of aim, as of manner, is in this respect very marked, 
Millais painting his surroundings often with what Ruskin once 
characterised as " dull and objectless veracity " ; Rossetti using his 
details for the double purpose of increasing the spiritual significance, 
and the colour loveliness of his picture, while Hunt appears to take 
the detail of his picture from the point of view of an earnest preacher 
or faithful historian, losing frequently the Tightness of material aspect 
in his desire to omit no portion of his subject, and caring little, if at 
all, whether the added detail be beautiful or no, so long as it be an 
intellectual item in the telling of his story. I fear to weary my 
readers on this point, or I should have been very desirous to analyse 
from this point of view such typical pictures as Millais' "Black 
Brunswicker," Hunt's " Isabella and the Pot of Basil," and Rossetti's 
"Beloved," or the "Blue Bower": any one, however, who is 
interested in the subject can eeisily work out such an analysis and 
comparison, one which is not only interesting in the present con- 
nection, but which points to three phases of artistic energy — the 
spiritually significant, the intellectually interesting, and the crafts- 
manly perfect — of which all very great art partakes, and becomes the 
greater or the less perfect as it preserves or ignores their relation 
and their importance. A few words on this subject will be found in 
the concluding portion of these notes. 

Most readers will, however, agree that, supposing three young 
artists to have taken such a serious, almost religious, view of their 
vocation as that indicated by Ruskin, it would be extremely im- 
probable that they would in after years — and so very quickly — 
entirely abandon, not only their special principles, and their general 
point of view, but even their early habit of earnestness and moral 
theory ; and yet this was certainly the case with the pre-Raphaelites. 
No doubt Mr. Holman Hunt is, and always was, in his way, a man 
who regarded his art as a religion, and indeed, in his mind, the two 
seem to be mixed up inextricably — of which more anon ; but this 
applies in no slightest degree to either Rossetti or Millais. In 
the painting, and, indeed, so far as the world knows, in the intel- 
lectual and emotional lives of these painters, the religious influence 
is absolutely undiscoverable. Of Rossetti we can speak with 
certainty from the records left us by himself in his poems; and 
the whole life, genial, healthy, jovial, and successful as it has 
been, of Sir John Millais, is that of a cheery artistic Gallio, who, 
whatever may be his religious convictions, does not obtrude them 
upon others, or even worry over them himself. It is opposed to 
everything ever recorded of him, or seen in him, or spoken by 
him, that he should as a boy have reasoned about art "being 

40 



tainted with the canker of corruption." That is not the idea of 
the painter but of the literary man: it is Ruskin, not Millais, 
Rossetti, or even Hunt, though the last-mentioned uses the expres- 
sion, who thinks along those lines of moral worth or decadence, 
and reads into the art question, the religious bias. No doubt the 
influence of Ruskin had already reached Hunt, who had had Modem 
Painters lent him by a fellow-student, and been greatly impressed 
by the teaching of the "graduate." He tells us that "to get 
through the book I had to sit up most of the night more than 
once, and I returned it before I had got half the good there was in 
it ; but of all readers, none so strongly as myself could have felt 
that it was expressly written for him." 

There - is no evidence, however, that this influence touched 
Rossetti in any way, indeed there is the strongest evidence to the 
contrary ; for Rossetti regarded Ruskin from the first, if we may 
trust the evidence of his letters, in the light of a picture-buyer, and 
one who could help the P.R.B. from his writings, and his purse, rather 
than as a teacher and a guide. Indeed, in these latter characters 
he altogether declined to accept him, and as long as the intimacy 
between the critic and the painter lasted it was continually strained 
by the one insisting upon teaching, and the other refusing to be 
taught, till at last there came a row royal, and the friendship was at 
an end. I rather feel inclined to agree with W. M. Rossetti's view 
upon this point, which is, that his brother was right and wise in 
resisting dictation ; and there seems to be little doubt but that Ruskin 
was quite human enough to be very genuinely surprised and very 
frankly annoyed at such resistance. In after years, at all events, 
when the Professor's influence was at its height, it is remarkable that 
there is scarcely a mention of Rossetti's work. 

One very prevalent misconception on this point which I have never 
seen corrected is, that Ruskin discovered, as it were, the P.R.B., and 
was their first champion. This was not the case : his knowledge 
of them was due to the poet Coventry Patmore, an old friend of 
Rossetti's, who not only informed Ruskin on the subject, but urged 
upon him the propriety of writing in defence of the young painters' 
work. Moreover, the intercourse between Rossetti and Ruskin did 
not commence till 1854, by which time the "Brotherhood" was six 
years old and about at an end, and both Rossetti's early oil-pictures, 
" The Girlhood of Mary Virgin " and the " Annunciation " (now in 
the National Gallery), had been painted and sold. Millais had painted 
the " Christ in the Home of his Parents," the " Supper in the House 
of Isabella," and Hunt "The Christian Missionary," the "Claudio 
and Isabella," the " Rienzi," and other pictures. 

In the first letter of Mr, Ruskin to the Times on the subject of 
G 41 



the pre-Raphaelite painters, dated 1851, he tells us he has "no 
acquaintance with any of these artists, and very imperfect sympathy 
with them," and proceeds to explain that the tendency of their paint- 
ing is " Romanist" and " Tractarian " ; in the second letter he again 
expresses in another fashion his dislike of their " morbid tendencies," 
though he by this time attributes these to another origin. In these 
letters there is no mention whatever of Rossetti, though there is a 
high panegyric on a picture by Mr. Charles Collins, one of the 
weaker members of the brotherhood, who subsequently abandoned 
painting, and made for himself some name in literature before his early 
death. It is notable that one of the pictures by Millais referred to in 
these letters is the " Woodman's Daughter," an illustration to one of 
Coventry Patmore's poems, and it is very probable that this circum- 
stance had some connection with Patmore's interest in th'e P.R.B. 
I believe the author of The Angel in the House was at this time 
acquainted with Millais and Rossetti, if not with Hunt. The next 
letters to the Times from Ruskin are dated three years later, and in 
these mention is altogether confined to Hunt's work. The Millais 
" Huguenot " was in the same exhibition, if I am not mistaken. 

There was some excuse perhaps for the omission of Rossetti's name 
from these letters, as his work was not in the Academy at any period 
during his lifetime, but the "Annunciation" had been publicly 
exhibited at the Portland Street Gallery, and the painter's work made 
known to Ruskin by Rossetti's first patron M'Cracken, I only insert 
these facts to show how very limited, tardy, and incomplete was 
the part taken by Ruskin in the pre-Raphaelite movement. The 
truth is, that from the first he had only sympathy with it on those 
points where the subjects or the sentiment of the pictures were such 
as he was in touch with. This is shown very clearly by the descrip- 
tions of Hunt's pictures, and the amount of space and consideration 
given to their literary and symbolical meaning, in comparison with 
their artistic qualities. Moreover, if we take Ruskin's chief work, 
published during the very thick of the pre-Raphaelite movement, 
i.e. from 1846- 1860, we find that the name of Rossetti is never even 
mentioned in one of the five volumes ; that Millais' name occurs in 
the index but twice (once in a note), and that incorrectly, for the note 
was expunged years before the index edition was published ; and 
the second reference is a bare mention of " The Huguenot," coupled 
with "The Awakened Conscience," the artist's name appearing in 
neither case. Thus it is literally the case that, in the completed 
edition of Modern Painters, the names of both Millais ^ and Rossetti 
are entirely omitted ; and this, despite the fact that the third member 
of the school, Holman Hunt, is, according to the index, mentioned 

1 I am of course fully aware that a good reason might have been given for the lack of 
reference to the former of these artists ; but there could have been none for the omission of 
Rossetti 

42 




I 



no less than ten times — on each occasion with enthusiastic admira- 
tion and unstinted praise. Even if we admit the artistic equality 
of Hunt with Rossetti and Millais, and this, I think, as I shall show 
hereafter, can hardly be seriously maintained, Mr. Ruskin's silence 
as to the two last-named painters can only be explained on the 
ground of deliberate intention, and can hardly be justified in a critic 
who had from 1851 downwards posed as the champion of pre- 
Raphaelitism. In saying this I am not forgetting the mention made 
by Ruskin elsewhere of these painters. I am only pointing out 
that it was the correspondence of the subject-matter and the spirit of 
Hunt's work, and not the artistic excellence, which occasioned our 
great critic's enthusiasm. He found in the religious intention of the 
painter, in his somewhat blind and unselecting fidelity to Nature, 
and most of all perhaps in his subject-matter, a complete echo of 
his own theories of the raison ditre of art ; and, both in form and 
spirit, this great, this surpassing excellence, as Ruskin conceived it 
to be, rendered him comparatively blind to the imperfections of 
Hunt's painting, and comparatively indifferent to the superior crafts- 
manship of Millais, and the infinitely higher imaginative power of 
Rossetti. 

It was a great misfortune that this should have been the case, not 
only for the painters concerned, but for the cause of fine art in 
England. When we consider the unique power possessed by 
Ruskin of rousing the enthusiasm of the young, and of setting forth 
the beauties with which he was in sympathy, whether they existed 
in pictures or in nature, it is beyond measure vexatious to find his 
justice and his critical insight so frequently blinded by the necessity 
of finding a definite unalterable correspondence and connection 
between fine art and a special religious theory. Had he been con- 
tent to assert the correspondence and connection of art with the 
intellectual and spiritual needs of humanity, as well as with its 
physical pleasures and experiences, he would, I think, have been on 
safe ground, at all events he would have been able to justify his 
admiration of this, that, or the other school, or painter, without twist- 
ing the facts of history, or action, and seeking to show that art 
flourished or decayed in proportion to the growth or decay in religious 
belief and national honour — a contention which is absolutely contra- 
dicted by all historical evidence, and by none more than the true 
history of the Stones of Venice. 

We must not forget that Ruskin's letters to the Times were not 
written till the spring of 1851 ; in other words, two years after the 
foundation of the Brotherhood, and at the period when the strongest 
attacks were made upon the P.R.B. It is rather interesting to 
remember that on this occasion Charles Dickens himself became an 
art critic, and wrote an article in Household Words against pre- 

43 



Raphaelitism. The prevailing opinion appears to have been that 
the Brethren were only seeking to attract attention by the extrava- 
gance of their work, and the critics undeniably treated them with 
great harshness. Fortunately this condemnation had its fitting 
reward, for a chance was given thereby to Ruskin's championship of 
the cause; a championship which was at the time extraordinarily 
effective. In the Exhibition, concerning which the first of these 
letters was written. Hunt's work, for the first time perhaps, really 
merited high praise. His picture of " Valentine and Sylvia " in that 
year undoubtedly contained much, especially in the painting of the 
dry leaves and woodland landscape, that was very beautiful.* And, 
whether it was from the influence of Rossetti and Millais, with the 
former of whom Hunt had been staying at Sevenoaks while the 
sylvan portion of his picture was painted, or from other and more 
personal causes, the colour of this picture is far superior to any of the 
earlier productions of the artist. The fault which Ruskin found with 
the school as a whole at this time, a fault, by the way, which could 
only be fairly alleged against two of its members, was the " common- 
ness of feature in many of the principal figures," did really exist, and 
was traceable a good many years subsequently in the work of Millais ; 
as for instance in the celebrated picture of "Apple Blossoms," in 
which the faces of the children are of an intensity of ugliness hardly 
to be atoned for, even by the splendid painting ^of the blossoming 
tree. Those, too, who remember what may be called the last pre- 
Raphaelite picture by this artist, i.e. the "Vale of Rest," will pro- 
bably agree that the faces of the two nuns suffer from the same 
hard unattractiveness. However, with this exception, Ruskin's 
criticism of the "Valentine and Sylvia" is enthusiastically favourable. 

" Further examination of this picture has even raised the estimate 
I had previously formed of its marvellous truth in detail and 
splendour in colour ; nor is its general conception less deserving 
of praise ; the action of Valentine, his arm thrown round Sylvia, 
and his hand clasping hers at the same instant as she falls at his 
feet, is most faithful and beautiful, nor less so the contending of 
doubt and distress with awakening hope in the half-shadowed, 
half- sunlit countenance of Julia. Nay, even the momentary 
struggle of Proteus with Sylvia just past, is indicated by the 
trodden grass and broken fungi of the foreground. But all this 
thoughtful conception and absolutely inimitable execution fail in 
making immediate appeal to the feelings, owing to the unfor- 
tunate type chosen for the face of Sylvia. Certainly this 
cannot be she whose lover was 

. ' as rich in having such a jewel, 
As twenty seas, if all their sands were pearl.' " 

44 



While Hunt was still waiting for the sale of this picture, he 
obtained through Mr. Dyce a commission to clean and restore the 
wall paintings by Rigaud at the Trinity House. This job he 
executed after the usual manner of "restorers" — to wit, by 
repainting as much as possible of the original, and making additions 
whenever he felt inclined. 

We have now brought the pre-Raphaelite story down to the 
summer of 185 1 : the Germ has been born and died;^ the pictures 
which excited most opposition painted and exhibited ; the first 
onslaught of criticism endured more or less patiently and successfully, 
and in some degree repelled, if not defeated, by Ruskin's defence. 
Millais has from the first been selling his pictures and laying by 
money. Rossetti has been up and down in spirits and cash, half a 
hundred times at least; now beating the town for recruits to the 
Brotherhood ; now, to use Brown's excessively plain description, 
" lying, howling, on his belly in my studio," declaring that he was a 
fool, and showing that he was a child ; and in the intervals of proselyt- 
ism and despondency turning out beautiful pen-and-ink designs by 
the score ; projecting and commencing oil-pictures by the dozen, and, 
having pressed all the neighbouring chambermaids into his service as 
models, he has changed them into queens and fairies, virgins and 
mediaeval ladies, and such other religious or romantic material as he 
stood most in need of. There is really great fun for any one with the 
slightest sense of humour, who may happen to be a little tired of the 
high falutin' and frequently unintelligible praise bestowed upon this 
painter by his partizans, to read Rossetti's own words about his 
pictures, and imagine him talking of the " Annunciation " habitually 
as " the blessed white eyesore," and " the blessed white daub," and 
describing how he has put a " gilt saucer " behind the head of the 
angel, "which crowns the China-ese character of the picture." 

All this time, too. Hunt has been labouring manfully along, under 
the difficulties I have described, just succeeding in keeping himself 
afloat by his industry and perseverance, and his readiness to turn his 
hand to any form of art whatever, from putting a new coat on some 
City man's portrait, working for a copyist in the National Gallery, 
retouching a fresco, or drawing for the wood-engravers. To sum up 
the state of affairs shortly, Millais' position is secure ; Rossetti can 
sell his water-colours to friends as fast as he can do them, and has 
besides two or three steady purchasers ; and Hunt alone has as yet 
failed either to form a clientele, or to obtain any certain sale for his 
pictures, large or small. This was the culminating point, the last 
severe struggle, of this last-named painter's career. And, to add to 

1 My endeavour in this essay being to avoid as far as possible the repetition of earlier 
writers I have not told the oft-repeated story of the Germ. This will be found by any one 
unacquainted with it, in the works of Mr. Hall Caine, Mr. W. M. Rossetti, Mr. F. B. Sharp, 
and many others. 

45 



its ititensity, Mr, Hunt, senior, appears once more upon the scene, 
again preaching with the kindest intention the superiority of com- 
merce to art. It appears that the old gentleman had been severely 
chaffed by his City friends about the P.R.B. and his son's painting. 
They had even offered to bet him that the lad's pictures would be 
taken down from the Academy walls, a suggestion which had been 
actually made in one of the leading papers. We can fancy him 
gravely inquiring of his son whether he thought this would really 
be the case, and when his mind is assured on this point, expressing 
" his conviction as confirmed, that in this country it was useless for a 
man without influential and rich friends to hope to succeed as an 
artist. There were too many established interests to overturn, ' and 
you,' he said, ' have not even the party feeling in your favour of a 
public school.' (There had been an attempt made to get me into the 
Blue Coat School.) ' You have done wonders, I will maintain — more 
than could have been expected, but it is hopeless.' " 

Then ensues one of the pleasantest incidents in the whole story, 
which may well serve to introduce the account of Millais, and the 
turn of the tide in favour of the pre-Raphaelite Brethren. 



46 




VII.— JOHN EVERETT MILLAIS AND THE 
PALMY DAYS OF THE BROTHERHOOD. 

S I have said, Millais was from the first in a more 
favourable position than that of either Hunt or 
Rossetti. He lived at home with his parents,- who 
thoroughly believed in his vocation, and studied art 
with their fullest assent and confidence, and he had 
been successful in his earliest student days. At a 
phenomenally early age he gained admission to the Royal Academy, 
and before he was fifteen had taken the principal medal in the Antique 
School. Subsequently he gained the highest honour the Academy 
Schools bestow, i.e. the gold medal for historical painting, with a 
picture entitled " Pizarro before the Inca of Peru." From the close 
of his studentship, moreover, his black-and-white work was in request 
for book illustration, and the first picture painted by him after the 
founding of the P.R.B. was sold before it went into the Academy 
for ;^ioo. He was at that time only nineteen. 

Despite the old Latin saying, surely here was to be seen a "happy 
man," one gifted with indisputable artistic genius, carefully trained from 
earliest youth, with sufficient means to prompt and not enough to stifle 
ambition, rich with friends and honours abroad, and pride, confidence, 
and love at home ; splendid in health and physical beauty, generous 
in spirit, happy in temperament. And for a last best gift of all there 
is the testimony of Hunt that between himself and Rossetti stood 
Millais midway, " showing a rare combination of artistic faculty with 
an amount of sterling English commonsense. And moreover he was 
in those early days, beyond almost any one with whom I have been 
acquainted, full of a generous, quick enthusiasm ; a spirit on fire with 
eagerness to seize whatever he saw to be good, which shone out in 
every line of his face and made it, as Rossetti once said, look some- 
times like the face of an angel." 

47 



Such was the boy who came to Hunt's assistance when his father, 
overborne by ridicule and the opinion of his acquaintances, expressed 
his conviction as confirmed, that " in this country it was useless for a 
man without influential and rich friends to hope to succeed as an 
artist." For some time longer Hunt struggles on despite his father's 
opinion. He tries book illustration, but the publisher declines his 
drawings; his old resource of portrait-painting, whereby in earlier days 
he had gained sufficient to defray the cost of models, etc., for his 
subject pictures, fails him, and he becomes so reduced in means that 
once " when I had a letter lying written before me I could not tell where 
to find a penny for the stamp." So he decides to follow his father's 
advice, give up painting, and, going " for a twelvemonth to a good 
yeoman uncle for instruction as a farmer, at the end of that time to 
emigrate to Canada, or the Antipodes (it was still at this date custom- 
ary to so designate Australia) to take my place as a settler." Of 
course he tells Millais, and Millais will have none of such a project. 
He is as confident for his friend as for himself (when was he not 
confident about anything or anybody ?), and he "announced that he 
had saved ;^500, and that I should have all of it, little by little, as 
I wanted it. My reply was, ' What do you think your father and 
mother would think of me ? ' And when he reminded me that I had to 
go to him in the morning, I said, ' Mind you don't say a word of what 
we have been speaking about.'" The next day, however. Hunt goes 
to breakfast with Millais, and when the servant opens the door, " the 
good couple burst out of the sitting-room, crying, 'Is that Hunt?' 
and saying, ' Come in here ! Jack has been telling us all about his 
plan, and he has our fullest concurrence.' I had quite made up my 
mind not to give in, but it was impossible in the face of such good- 
ness ; and I am prouder now to acknowledge my indebtedness than 
even my friend is shy to have his generosity published." Then, by 
spme quaint association of ideas perhaps, Hunt goes down to Surrey 
with Millais, and paints " The Hireling Shepherd," and they remain 
together all the summer : Millais engaged upon the background of 
the "Ophelia." From this time forward, as if Millais' good fortune 
had, as gamblers say, " changed the luck," Hunt's success becomes 
quickly assured. His picture of "Valentine and Sylvia," laughed 
at in London, is sent to Liverpool, and there, though it receives much 
" abuse " and " stupid rudeness," is rewarded by the Liverpool Council 
with a ;^50 prize : a proceeding which immediately results in its pur- 
chase by an Irishman who (with true national rashness) had never 
seen the work, for 150 or 200 guineas,^ of which ^^lo are to be paid 
monthly, and 60 guineas to be represented by a picture of Danby's. 
So the background to "The Hireling Shepherd" is finished, and 
that to " The Light of the World," and when Hunt returns per- 
manently from Surrey, he has painted what are perhaps the two best 

'^ Hunt does not remember which. 
48 



pictures of his life; he is in funds and favour; Royal Academicians 
ask him to dine I And behold, most wonderful of all, the next 
Academy Exhibition sees his work for the first time "on the line " 
And all because of that breakfast in Gower Street and "Jack's " help. 

Well, we must not speak with such levity of a Baronet and a Royal 
Academician : a prince of art, as the society journals delight to term 
him. But we may be glad to remember that two of the finest pieces 
of work which Sir John Millais ever executed, the landscape and 
background portions of the "Ophelia" and "The Huguenot," were 
painted during this companionship with Hunt in Surrey, and it is 
^?- ^5^^"^"^ probabilities to suggest that the infinite laborious toil 
which Hunt put into the two pictures above named, counted for much 
m the inspiration of his comrade. Certainly at this period Hunt's 
power of labour was prodigious : for nearly two months he used to 
paint by the light of a candle upon " The Light of the World," from 
9 P.M. to 5 A.M., sitting in an orchard in an open shed made of 
hurdles. At five he would go to bed, sleep till ten, and devote the 
rest of the day to drawing out the work for the evening. I fancy, 
however, these hours did not often occur, for during these months, 
as has been said, he was also doing a considerable amount of work 
upon "The Hireling Shepherd," and it is perfectly impossible this 
could have been the case if he had been at work often in the 
manner indicated. 

In fact, whatever Holman Hunt has achieved has been achieved 
by sheer industry and unremitting toil. He does hot paint, even 
now, easily : the work is beaten out, toiled over, struggled with. 
There is no spontaneity : there never has been any either in his 
drawing, his composition, or his brushwork. On the other hand, 
his colour, always striking, is in some pictures really beautiful ; his 
drawing is as solid and good as it is elaborated and matter-of-fact ; 
and from the intellectual side his pictures have great merit, and from 
the dramatic are uniformly effective. I should be inclined to plaCe 
an imaginative realism as the highest quality of his art ; it appears 
to me that by dint of long thinking over the subject chosen, and 
considering its possibilities, not only of drama but of interesting 
detail, he does finally succeed in creating a sort of half-prosaic, half- 
imaginative world, which those who look at his pictures can wholly 
believe in, though they may not altogether like. And if we can by 
any means grant Mr. Hunt his point of view, there is little left to 
be said but in praise. For very certainly this painter will give us no 
excuse in not realising his conception. He may possibly, as on a 
certain celebrated occasion, forget the sawdust in his carpenter's 
shop, but he will not spare us one curl of the shavings, one tooth of 
the saw, one fold of the Virgin Mary's gown, one bead of her 
necklace. 

H 49 



The picture of " The Huguenot " marks a very important stage in 
Millais' painting. Its popularity was immediate and assured, and 
probably no other picture by this artist has been so frequently 
reproduced ; but that is by no means all that renders it important — 
the composition marks the first application of the pre-Raphaelite 
theory to a subject of modern interest and modern sentiment ; for, 
despite the title and the costume of the lovers, this was essentially a 
modern English picture. Moreover, this was Millais' first attempt 
at sentiment — the first time he showed that power of depicting 
emotional expression which was for many years subsequently the 
prevailing charm of his painting. Over " The Huguenot," he, to 
use a French expression, " found himself," and students of painting 
will not need to be reminded how many variations he afterwards 
played upon the same theme. The idea of the scene was not 
improbably due to Holman Hunt's " Claudio and Isabella," which 
had been finished and sold to Egg, the Royal Academician, about 
eighteen months previously, and it is interesting to remember that 
the quotation afiixed by Hunt to this latter picture might almost as 
appropriately stand as the motto for " The Huguenot," which is 
indeed but another illustration of one who prefers " death " to 
"shamed life."^ 

This brings us to the consideration of that question of which 
so much has been written, the change which the art of Millais has 
undergone during the past twenty years. Is it, or is it not, an aban- 
donment of his old theories, a contradiction of them ? Or is it only 
a logical development and extension of pre-Raphaelitism ? I do not 
press my interpretation of the facts, but I am inclined to believe 
that this theory, like all other theories, was never of much account 
to the young artist, any more than it is to him now. Quick to feel 
and eager to experience, was he ever capable of deep thought, logical 
deduction, and long - enduring conviction ? Was not in him the 
actual technical success of handicraft always a greater thing than 
the expression of any imaginative idea, the realisation of any 
definite creed ? One thing is indubitable, and that is that, with 
advancing power and increasing age, a painter who is originally 
thoughtful and imaginative is little likely to fail persistently in those 
departments of his art : and has not the failure of Millais in these 
respects been so complete as to be even painful, and is not the 
change, the intellectual and emotional failure, to be traced to the 
very time when the influence upon him of his brother pre- 
Raphaelites and Ruskin faded ? We all know the old fairy stories 
wherein the happy princess is endowed with every good gift, save 

1 There is another story of the origin of this picture which attributes it to a subject 
thought of by Hunt, but never painted, of an incident in the Wars of the Roses — two lovers 
of the opposing factions plucking red and white roses in a garden. Hunt is said to have 
told Millais of this idea, and Millais chancing to go to the opera of The Huguenots, to 
have adapted it to that subject. 

50 



one, the want of which renders her future years unpleasantly eventful — 
was this one supreme gift of the imaginative faculty the secret want of 
Millais' art, and what looked like imagination in the youth, merely 
the reflection of that quality in his fellow-workers ? There are many 
considerations which have led the present writer to answer these 
questions in the affirmative, and in view of the importance of this 
artist, and the many great and admirable qualities of his art, he may 
perhaps be excused for mentioning some of these. 

One of the chief, is the facility Millais has always shown in entering 
into the ideas of others, and the great success he gained from the 
first as a book-illustrator. This was particularly evident in the 
magnificent series of designs he furnished for Anthony Trol- 
lope's novels, especially Framley Parsonage, The Small House at 
Allington, and Orley Farm. In these most beautiful drawings, the 
nature of the artist displays itself evidently as in complete sympathy 
with the spirit of the writer. The books are full of clear, if some- 
what thin, types of English character, and the illustrations are the 
perfect echo of the letterpress. Sir Peregrine Orme and Lady 
Mason, the Judge, that somewhat uppish young gentleman, Felix 
Graham, young Peregrine Orme, and Madeleine Graham, — Millais 
has caught the very idiosyncrasy of them all ; they exhale the spirit 
of Trollope, though the painter's sense of grace and beauty is also 
evident in every line. But neither in artist nor novelist is the work 
imaginative or ideal. It has no heights or depths; pleasing us* 
always, we feel it to be the apotheosis of the ordinary. All imagina- 
tive power is in essence, revealing, and strikes those who see or hear 
it for the first time with a shock of question, if not displeasure. We 
are placed in a strange world, listening to an unknown tongue, and 
ask ourselves whether such unaccustomed things as those which are 
placed before us can be true and admirable ? or whether the light 
through which we are shown them is not one which has never 
shone ? True, the facts may be ordinary enough, but they are there 
touched to no ordinary issue : a new element has been introduced 
which makes our oldest friend a stranger, our most familiar scene 
astonishing. No one will assert that in these his early black-and- 
white drawings Millais takes us to any such undiscovered country, or 
does more than realise with very minute and admirable dexterity, 
the very obvious meaning of an author who, perhaps more than 
any other, prided himself upon being clearly intelligible, un-hysterical, 
and consistent. 

Again, in the illustrations to the Tennyson and to the Parables, 
the same treatment, practical, clear, full of grace and beauty, and 
solidly realistic of its subject-matter, is contmually met with m the 
Millais designs. The woman sweeping the house for the lost piece 

51 



of silver, searches diligently with broom and candle ; the " Evil One 
sowing Tares," is just a very diabolical-looking old Jew in a red 
gaberdine, sowing in a field at twilight. " Edward Gray " turns 
away duly, as the poet says, from sweet Emma Moreland's some- 
what direct questioning, and so on throughout the list. All are 
delightful, all are beautiful with truth of keen visual perception, 
artistic spirit, and knowledge, but the imaginative quality is hardly 
to be found in a single instance. 

Yet these designs are, if we accept Ruskin's definition, the most 
definitely and essentially pre-Raphaelite compositions which any 
member of the Brotlierhood or sympathiser with the school has 
produced. They do one and all present their subjects with the 
simplicity and reality which were the distinguishing qualities of early 
Italian art. Also in this presentation there is to be found nothing 
strained or morbid, as in Rossetti ; nothing harsh or disagreeable, 
as was too often the case with Holman Hunt ; nothing bizarre 
or awkward, as occurs in several of Madox Brown's pictures. 
They have Ruskin's idea of pre-Raphaelitism, but no mannerisms 
derived from the study of mediaeval art, and are clearly, unaffectedly 
modern ; failing no whit in truth, they fail as little in beauty. It was 
my good fortune when quite a lad to stay in a house where, on the 
drawing-room table (as was the custom in those days), there lay some 
large gift-books, and amongst them a folio volume entitled The 
■ Cornhill Gallery, which contained careful reprints of these drawings, 
and I think it was to this fact that I owed the sympathy and admira- 
tion I have ever since felt for Millais' genius, and for that view of art 
which was inculcated by him ; a view in which pictorial beauty 
appeared to be considered in terms of truth and simplicity, to depend 
ultimately on its correspondence with facts of nature and life, and to 
be absolutely superior in the attainment of these objects to any possible 
shortcoming in the character of its subject-matter, or to almost any 
breach of the conventional rules of art. 

How it is that, with all our talk about art — some of which must be 
sincere — no one cares to-day to think about this grand collection of 
drawings, or hold them up as models for our young painters, is to 
me inexplicable. From the point of view of craftsmanship alone, the 
work is a model of excellence, both Rossetti's and Millais' pen and 
pencil work being even in their youth entirely admirable, and beyond 
all comparison superior to any of which we can boast in England 
to-day. 

With reference to this lack of imagination in Millais, think howmany 
times he has taken as the subject of his picture a man and woman 
standing face to face ! At the first effort I can recall seven such, " The 
Huguenot," "The Black Brunswicker," "Trust Me," "Yes or No," 
" The Master of Ravenswood," "Effie Deans," "The Knight Errant," 

52 



Af 



>:^i \ 






\ 



,«■*.' ■ 



Sil"?**?^**" N- 






t 



it 



A WOMAN WITH GRAPES.-- I). G. Rnssinii 



and perhaps " The Proscribed Royalist " should be included, and of 
course, if we included drawings, the number would be more than 
doubled. Still more numerous would be the pictures in which there 
is only one female figure (I am not including portraits of girls and 
children) : indeed of late years such designs have formed the majority 
of his painting, and the slightest addition of significant accuracy has 
availed to change the model from "Cinderella" to "Caller Herrin'," 
or from "Dropped from the Nest" to "Violets." In my own mind 
I put these latest pictures outside the artist's work proper, and 
that for the very simple reason that the majority of them have to 
all^ appearance been executed for the sake of reproduction in colour- 
printing, have been in fact sublimated "pot-boilers." Nearly the 
whole number have appeared either in Christmas numbers of the 
Graphic or Illustrated, and the dealers can of course afford to pay an 
extreme price for such designs, as so much of the money returns in 
the value of the copyright. An artist has of course the right to sell 
his art to the best advantage ; but if, when he has gained his reputa- 
tion, he chooses to apparently consider the question of ready and 
profitable sale before that of producing the best work of which he is 
capable, he must not be surprised if those who have the greatest faith 
in his powers, are the least inclined to discuss their latest exercise. 

Perhaps one word should be said here as to the Millais landscapes, 
in which our painter's imaginative faculty is generally at its weakest, 
though to these he usually gives a poetical title. In the early days the 
landscape backgrounds to his figure pictures, notably to the "Sir 
Isumbras," the "Autumn Leaves," the "Ophelia," and "The Wood- 
man's Daughter," were very fine in colour, very powerful and 
significant, and several large landscapes of the middle period, as, for 
instance, the " Scotch Firs," and " Over the Hills and Far Away," 
and in a lesser degree, " Flowing to the River," and " Flowing to 
the Sea," had, if not poetical excellence, a certain grandeur of style 
which justified their size, and what occasionally seems to be their 
indifference as to the subject selected. But the later work, i.e. that 
of the past ten years, has been absolutely motiveless, so far, at all 
events, as the present writer can perceive. Sir John now seems to 
stroll out from his Highland home and settle himself down in the first 
convenient spot, and there he cuts a great slice out of Nature with 
perfect content and satisfaction. Of course the result is something: 
it is finely drawn, well painted, occasionally good in colour, frequently 
delicate in atmosphere, but the result is not a great landscape picture : 
sometimes even not a picture at all, but a study, by which I mean 
that it lacks motive, dignity, and unity, and appears to have been 
unselected, and irrelevant to the artist's personality. 

All this, though, belongs to a later date than that of which I am 

53 



speaking — 1854 — when Millais was but twenty-five, Rossetti twenty- 
six, and Holman Hunt twenty-seven. It is as well to keep these 
dates in mind, and also that of the foundation of the Brotherhood, 
which took place in 1848. 

The works by the Brotherhood which were being achieved or 
exhibited in this year of 1854 were the chief typically pre-Raphaelite 
pictures. They were — by Rossetti, " Found," and another oil-picture 
which I cannot trace, but which was commissioned by M'Cracken; 
by Hunt, "The Light of the World," "The Hireling Shepherd," 
and " The Awakened Conscience " ; by Millais, the " Ophelia " and 
"The Huguenot." 1 

The " Found," of which a reproduction (of the original pen-and- 
ink sketch) is here given, is extremely interesting for several reasons. 
In the first place we have, as I have shown above, Madox Brown's 
distinct remembrance of the carrying out in its execution of the 
pre - Raphaelite principles which Rossetti soon after definitely 
abandoned in his own practice. Then the subject is the only purely 
modern one, realistically treated, which this painter ever attempted ; 
and the picture therefore stands alone as evidence of what he could 
have done in this direction. Lastly — and here I would ask my 
readers to examine the design for themselves, and test the truth of 
my assertion — the composition is unique in its demonstration of the 
influence of Holman Hunt over his more brilliant comrade. "Found" 
is, in fact, but a pendant to "The Awakened Conscience" — the 
third act of that drama of sin and shame the whole course of which was 
afterwards told in Rossetti's poem of "Jenny." The similarity in 
both feeling and manner between the two pictures is too plain to be 
mistaken, and both belong to the dramatic rather than the lyrical 
side of art — a side which, with the exception of a few pen-and-ink 
designs, and one or two water-colour drawings, was henceforward to 
receive no illustration from Rossetti. I know no other design by 
him in which beauty of arrangement and colour is deliberately 
sacrificed to " the telling of a story," but of Hunt it might almost be 
said that such sacrifice is the first characteristic of his art, and it is 
probably for this reason that he alone has always adhered so steadily 
to the pre-Raphaelite theory, finding in the multiplication, the elabora- 
tion, and the invention of appropriate and fully-realised detail, the 
greatest aid to his intellectual purpose. I will not enter into any 
description of the progress, abandonment, and long- subsequent 
taking-up again of this " Found " composition. W. M. Rossetti 
tells us that it was finally worked upon in 1881, and Mr. Fairfax 
Murray, who knows more about the chronology of Rossetti's work 
than any one living, asserts it was greatly injured by re-painting in 

1 Millais painted the " Vale of Rest " subsequently after an interval of work executed in the 
more conventional manner. 

54 



that year. There is no doubt that the present state of the picture is 
unhnished, and, so far as colour goes, extremely unsatisfactory The 
composition, however, and the skill with which the meaning of the 
story IS made irresistibly clear, leave nothing to be desired, and there 
T^^u ^A^ ^^^^ ^^^^ ^" '^^ celebrated words of Ruskin, written 
,.•"/ Awakened Conscience," that this is one of those pictures 
which are powerful " to meet full in the front the moral evil of the 
age in which they were painted, to waken into mercy the cruel thought- 
lessness of youth, and subdue the severities of judgment into the 
sanctity of compassion." 

It is strange to note that in this very year when for once Rossetti 
took Hunt's practice as his model, and painted for the last time on 
the strictly pre-Raphaelite theory, his friendship for Ruskin began. 
Up to the spring of 1854, painter and critic were still unknown to one 
another, and on that date Rossetti writes to Madox Brown as follows: 

"M'Cracken (the picture-dealer) of course sent my drawing to 
Ruskin, who the other day wrote me an incredible letter about 
it, remaining mine respectfully (!!) and wanting to call,^ I of 
course stroked him down in my answer, and yesterday he came. 
. . . He seems in a mood to make my fortune." 

The intercourse of Ruskin and Rossetti lasted, with occasional 
breaks, from 1854 to 1866, and was undoubtedly of the greatest 
service to the artist. Not only did the great writer continually 
purchase Rossetti's water-colours, but he induced others to do so ; 
and apparently also Ruskin supplied the funds for the publication of 
Rossetti's first complete book, i.e. the Early Italian Poets (pub- 
lished in 1 861). This volume was a comparative failure, as in seven 
years only half the edition was sold : Rossetti's share amounting to 
£% : 1 1 :8. Ruskin also behaved, as is fully admitted by W. M. Rossetti 
in his memoir, with munificent generosity towards Miss Siddal (after- 
wards Mrs. Rossetti), and was perhaps most helpful of all in the 
respect that he appreciated and gave full scope to Rossetti's imagina- 
tive art, at the same time that he refused to play the part, too common 
in the painter's life, of a blindly admiring and universally tolerant 
friend. I have said too common a part, and the abrupt ter- 
mination of this, and many other Rossetti friendships, is only too 
certainly to be ascribed to the intolerance with which the painter 
received all criticism and advice, and even all help, unless it eame in 
the exact shape, amount, and moment which he desired. From the 
first he was surrounded by a band of too admiring relatives, too 
enthusiastic friends, too sycophantic admirers. Ruskin is quite 
wrong in asserting that at the schools of the Royal Academy he was 

1 The notes of exclamation are Rossetti's. 

55 



unpopular and "hissed by the students."^ Holman Hunt says 
explicitly that Rossetti had even there "a following of noisy students," 
and from that day to the day of his death no man had ever more 
devoted and more numerous friends. Unfortunately very many of 
these were willing to take him on his own terms, and the continuity 
of such experience gradually made him almost intolerably insolent 
and exacting in his demands upon others. Moreover, it is impossible 
to read even his brother's memoir without finding upon almost every 
page some evidence of the reckless disregard he had for the feelings 
of any one who had in any way offended or thwarted him, or even, 
if the full truth is to be told, ceased to be of service to him. His 
earliest purchaser is, for instance, M 'Cracken, originally a shipbroker, 
and we find him paying Rossetti nearly 50 per cent more than the 
stipulated price for a water-colour, buying his first oil-picture, and for 
two years continually helping Rossetti in all sorts of ways. Well, 
M 'Cracken fails in business, and writes to tell D. G. R. that he cannot 
give him the money he had arranged, and, says Madox Brown, 
"Rossetti wrote a sonnet on M 'Cracken in great bitterness when 
he could not supply him with any more tin." ^ 

That is only one amongst many examples of the painter's intense 
egotism : he seemed in certain moods to absolutely revel in insulting 
those with whom he had business relations, and one consequence of 
this procedure was that he naturally fell in after-life into the hands of 
those who were content to put up with much, in order to make more. 

From the beginning of his career, however, it is evident that a very 
keen desire for money, and a very sharp eye for a bargain, were 
prominent elements in the painter's character. In his brother's 
memoir, carefully as the facts are arranged, we find the artist over 
and over again insisting upon his monetary bond : putting the money 
in the first place and his art in the second. He sees a pretty girl in 
the country, where he is stopping at a friend's house, and his first idea 
is, could he get her to sit "and knock fifty guineas out of her." He paints 
his friend's head, and doubts whether it might not be worth more if he 
were to put a halo behind it and call it Christ. He advances his 
prices over and over again till even his warmest friends and richest 
patrons have to bargain with him, and tie him down strictly before 
they can give him a commission, and when he has received and 
undertaken these commissions, we find him frequently unready to 
complete them as stipulated, or give them up. 

1 The origin of this mistake was that long after the three P.R.B.s had left the Royal 
Academy Schools, and when their pictures were being exhibited and attacked most violently 
by the Press, the mention of their names by one of the Professors was received with hisses. 
At the time of their studentship, however, both Rossetti and Millais were extremely popular, 
and Hunt does not appear to have been otherwise. 

^ A very bitter sonnet this was, a parody of Tennyson's " The Kraken." 

56 




J 

D 



O 






I believe it to be within the truth if I say that there must be 
a score^ of instances given in his brother's book alone, wherein 
Rossetti undertakes work for a certain stipulated sum, and receives 
an increased price for it before it is finished, or wherein he fails to 
execute the commissions he has accepted. 

W. M. Rossetti's account of the matter, that his brother " was not 
likely to neglect his own interest in a bargain; and indeed he 
constantly laid his plans well in such matters, and effected them with 
tenacity and acuteness," certainly does not overstate the case; and the 
complicated transactions of later years with regard to the purchase 
and re-purchase of his larger pictures, the execution of replicas, and 
the agency which Rossetti established with a gentleman of "versatile 
resource" and "attractive personal qualities" for the disposal of 
his pictures in the most favourable manner, are, if not models of 
business dealing, at least abundantly demonstrative that the artist 
thoroughly understood and. agreed with the principle of "caveat 
emptor." 

There is a sufficient reason for stating these facts without reserve, 
for they, and they alone, sufficiently account for much of what is 
undoubtedly the very indifferent painting turned out of this artist's 
studio in his later years. ^ It is very desirable that there should be put 
on record before it is too late a careful account of those works which 
were executed wholly or principally by Rossetti's assistants : great 
harm has been, and will be done to the artist's reputation, and a great 
injustice is committed towards the picture-purchasing public, by the 
sale of many of the Rossetti pictures which find their way into the 
market nowadays. Of course it is hoping against hope that those 
who are interested will reveal these secrets, but the public may at 
least be clearly warned to this effect, that if they purchase a Rossetti 
picture which is known to be a replica, or which is not known to 
have an authentic history, there is but a great probability that they 
are purchasing the work of one or other of Mr. Rossetti's assistants 
— of whom Mr. Dunn was the chief; and this is especially the case 
with the large red chalk drawings on coloured paper, of which I have 
reason to believe there are large numbers spurious. Some which I 
have seen sold at Christie's certainly were never done by Rossetti at 
all — others have been worked up from sketches and failures. How 
these drawings got into the market, the intimates of Rossetti may be 
able to guess, that does not concern the public, but their being there 
is a matter for serious consideration. 

I have said at the beginning of these notes that I did not intend to 
touch upon that part of Rossetti's life which could give pain to his 
friends and relations, but as his brother himself alludes to his use of 
chloral, and as all his biographers have had to mention that fact, I 

» Of course the effect of his continual chloral-taking was partly responsible. 
I 57 



may venture to point out that much of the above-mentioned work of 
inferior quality may well have been partially executed by him of late 
years, however great the subsequent alteration and addition ; and also 
that in such a state of health, and under the influence of such a narcotic, 
an artist would be little likely to consider what became of these tenta- 
tive sketches which, under other circumstances, would have been 
destroyed or at most carefully retained for his own use.^ It was in 
1867 that Rossetti first took chloral in any quantity, and most of the 
drawings above alluded to will be found to be executed after that 
date. 

I do not intend to say more upon this point than that the purchasers 
of Rossetti must guard themselves in the future if they would be 
certain of the authenticity of their possessions, and critics must be 
very slow to judge the quality of this master's art from many of the 
examples which are put forth as by his hand. 

I have now shown with perhaps too great detail the character of 
the early artistic careers and personalities of the two chief leaders of 
the P.R.B. The third, -Sir John Millais, has been less minutely 
dealt with, partly because that artist's work quickly separated itself 
from the influence of the Brotherhood, and is now indistinguishable, 
save for the genius of its author, from the ordinary Academic painting. 
Also we must remember that Millais' early life, owing to the causes 
I have mentioned, was less eventful, less harassed, than those of his 
future associates, and he has cared to give to the world no record 
of its aspirations and incidents. Where Rossetti has been made the 
subject of book after book, more or less personally reminiscent, where 
Hunt has told us in such detail as occurs in a previous chapter, the 
story of the desperate struggle he had with parents and fortune 
before he could even get leave to paint, Millais has been content to 
remain silent, and let his record be read alone in the prizes gained as 
a boy, the pictures painted as a man, the wealth and honours which 
surround his age. But a few days ago a friend who has known him 
for forty years told me the following story, which, whether true or 
not, is typical enough to merit repetition. 

Here it is. A short time since Sir John Millais was walking with an 
acquaintance past the " Round Pond " in Kensington Gardens, when 
he suddenly stopped and said, " How extraordinary it is to think I 
once fished for sticklebacks in this very pond ! And now, here I am 
a great man, a baronet, with a fine house and plenty of money and 
everything my heart could desire " — and so happily he walked ahead ! 

Well, who shall say that the triumph is not natural— is not even 
justified ? But who shall deny that it is, for so great an artist, a trifle 

1 I have good reason to believe that a considerable number of these were " ' conveyed,' the 
wise it call," from the painter without his knowledge. 

58 



mistaken, a trifle pitiful, and more than a trifle Philistine? The 
success in such matters as those mentioned, contrasts almost harshly 
with that quiet grave at Birchington-on-Sea, wherein Rossetti lies in 
a last home made beautiful by the " abiding love of a few true-hearted 
friends" ; and with the out-of-the-way " Lodge" at Fulham whence 
Hunt still sends us every few years a picture — the best that he has 
it in him to give ! " I am that I am," wrote Swinburne once, is the 
best reply (of the artist) to any " impertinence of praise or blame," but 
he did not mean the I of a great house, a title, and a big balance at 
one's banker's. Is it necessary to point out what was his meaning 
— or how the phrase applies in the present context ? Actually, was 
not Millais a greater man when he was painting the " Eve of St. 
Agnes" in a back room in Gower Street forty years ago? And 
perhaps his " balance," rightly considered, was even greater in those 
days, when he kept his money in a drawer in his bedroom, and offered 
it all to his friend to prevent his giving up the " fight for art." Such 
an old, insoluble question — this of success in the world's opinion, in 
the tangible facts of life, as compared with the success of being true to 
the light within you, faithful, if need be unto death, to your ideal life. 
The " big house," I fancy, must always seem a little over-large if the 
old friends come not there ; the splendid studio, but dim and shadowy 
if none of the " light of other days " illumine it with the softness of 
memory and the brightness of youth. Who shall hold the balance 
justly in such a case ? Shall we bid the vision remain with us, and 
let the reality " down the wind," or shall we " take the cash and let the 
credit go " ? 

I saw in early youth two lives, lived side by side, which silently 
asked this question. One content, successful, material, high in the 
world's respect, almost triumphant — and the other, striving after an 
unfulfilled ideal, unrecognised and suffering, but shining brightly with 
a steady light of noble pride and invincible resolution ; with self- 
sacrifice and truth. No after years have taught me to forget that 
lesson, or made me uncertain as to which was the successful life. 
The present writer is therefore a prejudiced witness, and must have 
his testimony regarded with consequent suspicion. 

A hundred apologies for this my five-and-twentieth digression. By 
Hercules! I will for the future stick to my "subject" like a Scotch 
lawyer. 



59 



VIII.— THE LESSER PRE-RAPHAELITES 
AND THEIR FRIENDS. 



HESE "people of importance" who filled up the 
large Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (seven in all, like 
the family of Wordsworth's most irritating child), 
who were they, and what did they for " the honour 
of the family " ? Their names were : 



»^^.^MM%. 



James Collinson. 
William Michael Rossetti. 
Frederick George Stephens. 
Thomas Woolner, (now) R,A. 

Collinson was a painter, and was afterwards succeeded as a 
P.R.B. by Walter Deverell. Woolner, of course, was the celebrated 
sculptor and poet of that name. F. G. Stephens started as a 
painter, but afterwards became an art critic, and W. M. Rossetti, 
after some coquetting with art, also took to criticism, chiefly literary, 
though he for some time acted as art critic to the Spectator. 

Collinson seems to have been the weakest member of the society 
— a little bit of a painter, a little bit of a poet, and alternately being 
converted, and perverted, from one form of religious belief to another. 
W. M. Rossetti lets him down as gently as possible with the mild 
observation that he " did not make the mark which in the early days 
of Prseraphaelitism ^ his colleagues had hoped for," and "is now 
perhaps almost forgotten." Holman Hunt calls him dull and sleepy, 
and compares him to the fat boy in Pickwick in all but size ; and 
Madox Brown dismissed him (in conversation with me) as having 
"had nothing much to recommend him" ! In the account Woolner 
gave me of the association, Collinson's work is described as not being 
" much in the spirit of the others." Therefore he can hardly be said, on 

1 Of the many ways of printing this word I generally follow in quotations that adopted by 
the special author. 

6q 



the balance of testimony, to have added to the strength of the P. R. body, 
of which he was the first recruit, though Hunt speaks with some 
admiration of "The Charity Boy's Debut," a picture exhibited by 
Colhnson in 1848. On account of this work, Rossetti "declared 
that CoUinson was a born stunner, and at once enrolled Collinson as 
one who wanted only the enthusiasm we had to make him a great 
force in the battle, and accordingly he was told that he had to put 
the secret initials on his works, to attend our monthly meetings, and 
to receive (and entertain) us in his turn." This last part of the 
P.R.B.'s proceedings — no unimportant one, for all the members 
appear to have had particularly good appetites, both for talk and 
supper — Collinson appears to have faithfully carried out ; and Hunt 
adds that, though, owing to a liberal allowance from home, he was able 
to provide "quite a conventional entertainment," he invariably went 
to sleep at the beginning of the evening, and had to be woke up at its 
close. On the whole, he must have been a harmless, good-tempered, 
vacillating individual, with a secret longing for a sort of decorous 
Bohemianism — a Bohemianism as strictly limited as Mrs. Dpdd's 
desire of "safe glory" for her son Edward.^ 

As the " Brotherhood" developed, it seems to have been a favourite 
amusement of the members to " draw" Collinson — to hunt him up out of 
his bed at unholy hours, and take him still half-asleep for long walks 
by moonlight, or stand under his windows howling P.R.B. till his 
dragoness of a landlady, " six feet in height," came out with a candle 
to ask if they "didn't know Mr. Collinson was asleep?" On one 
occasion Collinson " came to his window piteously entreating to be left 
to sleep, but we pointed out that we had chosen the northern course 
solely on his account, and that we knew what was good for him 
better than he did himself. He gave in, dressed himself, and came 
with us on a walk — worth remembering even now for its many 
delights of lovely moonlit heath and common and village, with the 
whole on our return exchanged for ever-increasing dawn and sunrise. 
I think our poor victim slept all the way, leaning on one or another 
of us, and I must confess that neither this nor any treatment we 
adopted for his good seemed thoroughly to wake him up. When I 
first returned from the little continental tour, I lodged in the same 
house with him at Brompton for about a month. There even in the 
day he was asleep over the fire with his model waiting idle, earning 
his shilling per hour all the time ; and as the home remittance for 
some reason stopped, it seemed at one time as if bankruptcy must 
come on like an armed man. But at the last moment he unex- 
pectedly waked ^ up, sent in his resignation as a Pre-Raphaelite 

1 Glory by all means, glory by the pailful, but safe glory if you please ! or she would have 
none of it. 

2 I do not alter this slip of the pen, as I have throughout all quotations thought it better 
to give the exact text. 

61 



Brother — ungrateful man ! — sold his lay figure and painting material 
by forced sale, and departed to Stonyhurst to graduate. It is but 
fair to give the further history of this Pre-Raphaelite Brother. At 
the end of a twelvemonth or so he abandoned the idea of conventual 
or priestly life, again took to painting and I believe executed many 
very creditable pictures of a modest character. He subsequently 
abjured Romanism, and died some eight years ago, very much 
respected by those who knew him best, and with less, I am sure, to 
reproach himself for than many more brilliant men may have at the 
end of their days." Collinson wrote a long, blank- verse poem in the 
Germ named "The Child Jesus," and W. M. Rossetti alludes to one 
ambitious, in some respects very laudable, " Praeraphaelite" attempt, 
entitled "St. Elizabeth of Hungary," but where this picture is I do 
not know, nor have I ever seen it described. 

Thomas Woolner, though an original P.R.B., was so rather from 
the intellectual, and poetical point of view, than from the artistic. It 
was no doubt Rossetti's poetic genius which attracted him, and his 
work in connection with the Brotherhood was almost wholly of a 
literary character. In his view of the association he minimises both 
its influence, and the enthusiasm and conviction of the leaders, and 
his own account of the way in which his name was associated with 
the movement shows that from his point of view, at all events, the 
connection was both slight and accidental. He tells me, for instance, 
that "about the time the movement began — 1848 -1849 — I wrote 
a poem called ' My Beautiful Lady,' and its sequel, ' My Lady in 
Death,' which Rossetti declared to be written on strict pre-Raphaelite 
principles, and they complimentarily placed them first, in the first 
number of the Germ, published January 1850; and as these poems 
were a good deal criticised at the time, my name became in this 
way associated with the movement." The whole poem of "My 
Beautiful Lady" did not come out in the Germ., but was subsequently 
published and extremely successful. The whole story of the Germ, 
its contributors, and contents, has been frequently told. Acting, 
therefore, on the principle observed throughout these notes, I shall 
only here refer readers to the excellent account given in Mr. W. 
B. Sharpe's book on Rossetti, the slighter sketch in Mr. W. M. 
Rossetti's account of his brother's poems and pictures, and in the 
Reminiscences of Rossetti, by Mr. Hall Caine. This last is by far 
the most readable account of the poet-painter with which I am 
acquainted, though it deals entirely with the later years of his life, 
Mr. Caine having, I believe, never seen Rossetti till three years 
before his death, though their correspondence dated from 1878. 
It is perhaps worth mentioning that both Coventry Patmore and 
Madox Brown contributed to the first number of the Germ, though 
their poems appeared anonymously. 

62 



The important point to be noted in the contents of the Germ, is 
that though it passed for, and indeed in a sense was the official journal 
of pre-Raphaelitism, yet we find that of the three pre-Raphaelite 
leaders one, Millais, never contributed to it at all ; another, Holman 
Hunt, only contributed a drawing to the first number ; and the third, 
Rossetti, confined his contributions to poems entirely unconnected 
with, and irrespective of any P.R. theory. From first to last — not a 
very long way, for the journal only lived through four numbers — the 
dogmatic enunication of the supposed P.R.B, theories and principles 
is left to the hands of minor contributors, some of whose very names are 
unknown to the majority of artistic readers, and only two of whom, were 
members of the Brotherhood. The Messrs, J. L. Tupper and John 
Orchard are the authors of two dogmatic papers on " The Subject in 
Art" and a "Dialogue on Art," and a third is contributed by John 
Seward, who is now known as F. G. Stephens. Madox Brown sends 
one on the "Structure of an Historical Picture," Coventry Patmore, 
a " Criticism of Macbeth," and the other critical papers are from the 
pen of W. M. Rossetti, and are devoted only to poetry. 

It is thus the incontrovertible fact that, however eager in proselyt- 
ising Rossetti may have been, he was not in any way eager in 
enunciating in print the supposed P.R.B. principles, and neither was 
Hunt nor Millais. How are we to interpret this silence of the oracles ? 
It cannot evidently be accidental ; and was not the modesty of young 
painters who thought their principles could be better expressed by 
literary craftsmen, for Rossetti was at this time beyond all doubt a 
more capable writer than any other contributor to the periodical, 
and besides the failing of undue modesty was not to be laid to the 
charge of any of the P.R.B. It appears to me that we can hardly 
escape from the inference that if these men were silent at this time it 
was because they were already too doubtful of their own aims and 
principles, or it may be too little agreed between themselves of what 
those principles and aims were, to dare to set them forth in a definite 
and permanent form, and the absence of Millais and Holman Hunt 
shows that the Germ really was chiefly a whim of Rossetti's, who 
indeed, with the assistance of his sister Christina, his brother William, 
his sleepy convert Collinson, and his teacher Madox Brown, practically 
wrote the whole journal. The three Rossettis indeed wrote no less 
than thirty-eight separate poems and articles out of the four numbers.- 
But not one of these enunciates the P.R. theory, and only one deals 
with the question of the painter's aim, and that incidentally, and m an 
indirect and symbolic manner. This contribution is the allegoric 
story of " Hand and Soul," by D. G. R., from which, so far as Rossetti 
may be considered to be expressing his own point of view, we hnd 
him at direct variance with the principles laid down in the dogmatic 
papers above alluded to, by J. L. Tupper, Orchard, and Stephens. 

63 



But enough of the Germ. The periodical has been criticised to 
death ; its interest was not in criticism but, poetry, and with that we 
have here nothing to do. 

After Collinson we come to Mr. F. G. Stephens, who was at 
this time endeavouring to be a painter, but, as Woolner says, " his 
tendency being towards Hterature, he gave up pictures for books, and 
by his writings did a great deal for the cause." Stephens was, I fancy, 
at this early time rather a problem to his brother P.R.B.S, for he 
was, to quote the graphic expression of one of them, " no good as a 
painter." What was to become of him nobody knew, till the happy 
chance arrived of getting him a berth as art critic of the Athenceum. 
If I remember right this was effected through Holman Hunt's influence 
(Hunt was his most intimate friend), but the exact date at which it took 
place I have forgotten. In that berth he has remained ever since 
— "sedet,in aeternumque sedebit" — and during thirty years at least, the 
readers of that erudite periodical have suffered or enjoyed his per- 
tinacious eloquence. Though he is, I believe, the most estimable 
and well-meaning of men in private life, in his public critical capacity 
I bear him a grudge. Not for his opinions, for I don't think, outside 
a reverence for everything which reminds him of the P.R.B., that he 
has any, but for his most detestable English. He has invented a series 
of phrases to apply to pictures, painters, and art subjects in general, 
which are absolutely excruciating in their combination of uselessness, 
affectation, and incomprehensibility. Sarcasm, abuse, ridicule, re- 
monstrance, and entreaty have been directed against him in vain — 
nothing and nobody — not even his editor — will, or can induce him to 
write words which are " understanded of the people." If in the 
dimmest vista of the future he can see the gleam of a lengthy 
epithet peculiarly inappropriate to his sentence, he will "go for it," 
as quickly as Artemus Ward for the historical ''taller candle," The 
longer, the more foreign, and the more incomprehensible that word is, 
the better he will be pleased. He revels verbally in " yellow carna- 
tions," luxuriates in the "morbidezza of the chiaroscuro," takes a 
refreshing dip in iridescent luminosity, and completes his sempiternal 
polysyllabic meanderings with every pedagogic synonym he can find 
in the dictionary. Is it not permissible to " gently hate and mildly 
abominate " such a persistent " deranger of epitaphs " ? 

Seriously speaking, Mr. Stephens is to-day a painstaking though 
a naturally dull and limited critic, who deserves the respect due to a 
man who does his work to the best of his ability, and who would 
do it much more worthily if he were not a little soured, a little anxious 
to find fault with all art which does not remind him of the days when 
he too lived, or wished to live, in Arcadia. He is not naturally a 
man of a critical habit of mind. On the other hand, his industry is 
untiring, his experience considerable, and his technical criticism, 

64 



when unwarped by personal prejudice and stripped of its" mysterious 
embellishments, frequently sound and reflective. 

Of Mr. Woolner's art and poetry I need not speak. The world 
has set its seal of approval upon the latter, and that greater world 
in art, the Royal Academy, has in one of its many freakish moments 
crowned the former. Only in relation to the pre-Raphaelites are we 
tempted to ask, " Qtie diable allait-il faire dans cette galere?" 

He says now the whole thing "was a joke," but this is to confuse 
the movement and the Brotherhood. A joke of so poor a nature 
does not last for forty years, and, indeed, if one thing about the 
movement is more evident and interesting than another, it is the 
delicious seriousness with which the P.R.B.S regarded themselves, 
and, still more surprisingly, were regarded by the public, the painters, 
and the critics. Rossetti, it is true, laughed in, and sometimes out of, 
his sleeve — witness those moments in which poor Collinson was "told" 
what he was to do, and taken for long moonlight walks when he 
only longed for rest, and Holman Hunt's reminiscences suggest here 
and there a subdued chuckle ; but did any one ever suspect William 
Michael Rossetti of making jokes, or Stephens, or Collinson, or 
W. B. Scott, or Coventry Patmore, or the brothers Tupper ? Nor is a 
sense of humour the strongest characteristic of Millais and Ruskin. 
No, I think we must receive Mr. Woolner's opinion on this point 
with considerable hesitation ; his sympathies with the movement 
have almost entirely disappeared ; his intimacy with the leaders was 
cut short by an early departure from England (to Australia); and his 
subsequent election to the Royal Academy for work from which all 
signs of pre-Raphaelite influence had disappeared, no doubt all 
helped to make him regard his youthful enthusiasm with doubt and 
disapproval. Perhaps he had never really been a pre-Raphaelite in 
intention, for we have heard that it was Rossetti claimed him as 
one on account of the principles upon which he had written 
(according to D. G. R.) "My Beautiful Lady." More unlikely 
things have happened than that the poem in question was written 
upon no "principles" at all, and that Rossetti, anxious as he then 
was to find converts, thought, as he admired the poem, that his 
admiration must spring from its pre-Raphaelitism. 

The remaining member of the Brotherhood, W. M. Rossetti, is 
unconnected with the artistic side of the movement, except as a 
critic of painting. His work in this respect does not, it seems to 
me, call for very special remark, and with his other literary produc- 
tions I am not here concerned. But no one can read his account 
of the artistic life of his celebrated brother without feeling for the 
writer the respect due to a painstaking honest man, apparently wholly 
desirous of telling the simple truth, and yet evincing in every Ime 
K 65 



loyal unselfish devotion, and intense sympathy and admiration. This 
is one of the men, I must believe, who has never had justice done 
him by the English public. He possesses the two greatest merits 
of a biographer — sympathy and justice. So far as he can ascertain 
the truth he tells it simply and fully, and with as total an absence 
of conceit, as of undue humility. The book is, one may perhaps be 
justified in saying, dull as a literary performance. The author is 
not, and would not be if he could, a smart journalistic writer, but I 
should hesitate to say I know any record undertaken by a relation 
of a great man's doings in art and literature, which was more com- 
plete, more trustworthy, or more dignified, or which shows a more 
earnest study of its subject-matter. As there are advantages, so 
also there are drawbacks, in relationship to a genius, and W. M. 
Rossetti's reputation would, I think, have been far higher than it is 
had he not so loyally devoted a great part of his life to the considera- 
tion, the encouragement, the explanation, and, to some extent, the 
completion of his brother's work. 

This finishes the list of the original members of the P.R.B., and 
the facts given lead us clearly to some rather startling conclusions, 
which I shall endeavour to sum up shortly in my concluding chapter, 
before which, however, some mention must be made of those 
painters and writers who are now commonly spoken of as pre- 
Raphaelites, from their association in later years with Rossetti or 
Hunt, or from some supposed likeness in their pictures and writings 
to the work of the P.R.B.s. A few words must also be said as to 
the influence of the so-called " school " upon contemporary art, 
though it is, I hope, abundantly evident to all who have read the fore- 
going with any care, that there never was anything in the nature of 
a P.R.B. school properly so called. Two or three men working in 
a somewhat similar direction, but with different aims and different 
methods, holding at no time more than one principle in common, 
and quickly abandoning even that single agreement, do not con- 
stitute a "school" in any intelligible sense of that word's meaning; 
and such was the case here. Nothing dies so hard as a word, 
particularly a word which nobody understands, and there is little 
doubt but that the one in question will survive all of us; but a 
day will surely come when it will be seen that the essence of what is 
now known as pre-Raphaelitism was not the influence of a school or 
a principle, but simply the influence of one man, and that man, Dante 
Gabriel Rossetti. The early Italian Painters, the elaboration of detail, 
the painting of each part of a landscape background to a picture on 
the spot instead of from studies, simplicity, absence of convention 
and pictorial artifice, and all the rest of the supposed aims and prin- 
ciples, were the merest fringe of the movement, the accidents whereby 
what Dobell would call "the imperceptible substans" revealed itself: 

66 



the motive of the work, the real point of view, was neither simple, nor 
entirely derived from the Italian mediaevalists, but was compli- 
cated, personal, and essentially Gothic, imbued with the sadness of 
the northern races, and the questioning, the unrest, the literary spirit 
of the nineteenth century. Ruskin talks about a few casts from the 
work of Ghiberti having inspired the leaders — and no doubt all three 
did admire Ghiberti's work, but what does that prove ? There is no 
work in the whole history of art which is so essentially and (splendidly, 
mind !) conventional as Ghiberti's, as any one who has studied " The 
Ghiberti Gates" must surely know. Not only did he adopt all the 
conventions he could find, but invented new ones for himself, which 
have remained and been adopted by all succeeding artists in such 
bronze work ; and he remains to this day as an unique example of a 
master who, in despite of all true art theory, endeavoured, and 
succeeded by sheer genius and ingenuity of convention, in making 
the art of sculpture do duty for the art of painting. No more 
elaborate system of chiaroscuro was ever adopted by an artist, no 
greater elaboration of composition ever shown, than in this old sculp- 
tor's work, and many of his groups and figures might be reproduced 
without the alteration of a line, as specimens of the utmost that 
arrangement, balance, symmetry, and repetition can produce in 
pictorial beauty. 

Very easy is it to understand how the almost marvellous beauty, 
elaboration, and inventiveness of Ghiberti's work could inspire the 
enthusiasm of young artists — how could it do otherwise ? — but to 
trace the inspiration of the movement, as Ruskin does, or rather 
did, to this sculptor's simplicity, faith, and unconventional spirit, is 
opposed to all common sense, and all the facts. If, moreover, we 
may trust Holman Hunt's own words, Raphael himself, the greatest 
master of convention that the world has known, was the master 
most warmly admired of all by these young men. Hunt calls him 
" the prince of painters," and says that the choice of name for the 
Brotherhood was determined, not so much in adhesion to the painters 
who went before Raphael, as in contempt for those English artists 
who were considered to paint in his manner. In a word, not 
admiration for the past, but revolt against the present painting 
was the inspiring thought, and the conviction is reluctantly forced 
upon me that Ruskin from the first misunderstood the movement, 
and therefore, of course unconsciously, misled the public. That the 
great writer's view was to some extent endorsed with the acqui- 
escence of silence by the P. R. artists, I do not for a moment deny : 
it would have been strange had the young painters not taken the 
opportunity of conciliating so powerful an ally. And it must not 
be forgotten that for Rossetti especially, Ruskin was not only an 
ally but a constant and generous patron for at least ten years. 

67 



Remember in support of the above view how the intercourse between 
critic and painter commences. On the 14th April 1854 Rossetti 
writes to Madox Brown : " . . . M'Cracken of course sent my 
drawing to Ruskin, who the other day wrote me an incredible letter 
about it, remaining mine respectfully (!!), and wanting to call, I of 
course stroked him down in my answer, and yesterday he came. 
. . . He seems in a mood to make my fortune." 

That Ruskin did do a great deal is evident from W. M. Rossetti's 
account of the relations between him and Dante Gabriel, which he 
says he cannot precisely define, but believes that there was " a general 
understanding that within a certain annual maximum Ruskin would 
buy if he liked it whatever Rossetti had to offer him at a scale of 
prices such as other purchasers would pay ; and under this arrange- 
ment funds would be forthcoming at times to meet the artist's con- 
venience without" rigid assessment as to value previously delivered." 

Obviously, therefore, there was no likelihood of Rossetti pro- 
testing publicly against his patron's views; in private, I fancy, he 
often did so : at all events the relations between the critic and 
painter were frequently strained, and about 1865 came to a some- 
what abrupt termination. It may be noticed that nearly all Rossetti's 
designs from the Morte d^Arthtcr, and the majority of his Scriptural 
subjects, belong to this period of his friendship with Ruskin, and 
that thenceforward — 1863 to 1882 — there is, broadly speaking, an 
entire change both in the class of design, and the artist's treatment 
thereof. 

Directly we get outside the mystic circle of the seven P.R.B.S, 
there is considerable difficulty in knowing whose work should and 
should not be included as falling under the influence of pre- 
Raphaelitism. For, as I have shown, the above term covered even 
in the Brotherhood aims extremely divergent, and no common ratio 
was to be found, save in a few rare instances, between the pictures 
of even the three leaders. For the purpose of these notes, how- 
ever, it will, I think, be convenient to group the sympathisers and 
followers of Rossetti, Hunt, and Millais in three chief divisions. 
The first division will include those contemporary artists who were 
associated with, though not actually members of, the confederacy ; 
the second, whom we will call the New Pre-Raphaelites, will com- 
prise Mr. Burne-Jones, Mr. William Morris, Mr. Pater, and their 
respective followers and imitators ; the third will show the artists 
who were only partially or temporarily led astray (or put in the right 
path) by the pre-Raphaelite idea. 

These notes, over-long, I fear, already for my readers' patience, 
draw towards a close, for both space and time are wanting to enable 

68 



me to say more than a few words upon each of these classes ; but it 
must not be forgotten that this portion of the History of Pre- 
Raphaelitism is that which is really of the first importance. The 
"snowball " set rolling in 1848 is rolling still, and in the forty years 
since then has greatly increased in volume. What the three 
painters did, and what Ruskin mistakenly but finely described them 
as doing, have united together in one wave of influence, and with the 
help of the literature and poetry of Swinburne, Pater, Theodore Watts, 
and Symonds, the stained glass, furniture, tapestry, pottery, and 
wall-hangings of Morris, Falkner, De Morgan, Walter Crane, and 
others — have given the colour and shape to this most unique fine art 
movement of the century. 

To trace how this has taken place ; the part which literature and 
painting have played therein ; the sharp attack, repulse, and final 
defeat of the conventional newspaper criticism ; the conversion, 
sullen and slow, of the Royal Academy ; the alteration effected in 
art education and domestic environment ; and the gradual welding 
together in our latest painting of this so-called pre-Raphaelite theory, 
and the technique of the Foreign, and especially the French Schools 
— this was the task which the present writer once proposed to himself; 
the task which he hopes will some day be accomplished by a stronger 
and younger hand. 

Walter Deverell and Charles Collins (brother of Wilkie) were two 
painters intimately connected with the P.R.B. Deverell, in fact, as 
I said above, became a P. R. B. in place of Collinson (retired). Testi- 
mony unites in declaring the first of these to have been a man of 
singular gentleness and sweetness of disposition, and an artist of 
genuine if delicate accomplishment. He died in 1854, and there 
is a little allusion to him in one of D. G. R.'s letters, telling how, 
after his death, " I have been doing one or two things to poor 
Deverell's picture (from As You Like It), the chief of which has 
been to attempt getting rid of what I thought unpleasant in Celia's 
face." The " Brotherhood " here is real enough, is it not ? The 
truth is, these men were always doing kind things of this sort for one 
another, as witness the following account given me in a letter by 
Hunt the other day in response to a question about an early chalk 
drawing by him of Millais which I had recently bought, and which 
I have reproduced here ; — ^ 

" The sketch which you refer to was undoubtedly done by me — 
executed in April 1851, on a day which R., M., and I devoted 
in a spirit of self-sacrifice to a former companion, who, tired of 
his struggle as an artist to gain a footing in England, had gone 

1 i.e. in the quarto edition only. 
69 



to the gold diggings ^ in Australia. At the date given, after 
failure on Tom Tiddler's Ground, he had got to Melbourne, and 
set to work again as an artist in taking likenesses ; and as we 
were told he had difficulty in impressing well-to-do visitors, who 
saw our names in English papers, we met at Miliais' to make 
a set of one another's portraits for the studio in Australia. I 
did on the same morning the drawing of Rossetti in pastile ; 
but he was so impatient for his own chances that he curtailed 
my time on the first task, and the second was threatened 
altogether, until I determined to begin as he drew me ; so there 
was but bare time for me to bring either of mine to a 
termination. Miliais did a pencil drawing of W. M. Rossetti, 
and of one of the drones of our party, who of course did nothing 
in return. 

" D, G. R., as a portraitist at the time, was given to unlimited 
idealism if the position lent itself to his treatment ; but when 
this, or the person, would not fit his pattern, he went all astray 
unless he could correct to his heart's content. The portrait of 
me was decided to be an example of the last order of refractori- 
ness, inasmuch as in the end, instead of representing a man of 
twenty-four, it was decided to be like one of forty or more, and 
his brother said that the being could be no other than Rush, the 
great murderer of the period. 

" Still could not have drawn it either then or at any other 

time, for it was a sterling artistic performance. It was sent out 
with the rest to Melbourne, and the set royally served the pur- 
pose of giving a professional cachd {catchef) to the antipodean 
struggle inasmuch as it helped a long career of fortune worship, 
until about three years since, he was able to turn an honest 
penny by breaking up the collection and sending them into the 
market." 

To return to Deverell. Woolner writes me he "painted closely 
from Nature, and was associated with the others ; but whether he 
painted in this way from his own initial energy or was induced to do 
so by Hunt's example I cannot now remember, if indeed I ever 
heard. He had a sense of simplicity and grace so exquisite that his 
early death was a great loss to our school." Madox Brown ranks 
him above Collinson as more worthy of remembrance. He was the 
son of a schoolmaster. Charles Collins is scarcely remembered 
now as an artist, though he had every opportunity of early training, 
being the son of William Collins, R.A., one of the finest English 

1 Hunt gives no name, but this may possibly refer to Woolner, who did go to " the 
diggings," and, failing to make his fortune there, returned to Melbourne, made medallions 
(of the successful diggers, I suppose), and finally returned to England. 

70 



landscapists of his day, and whose pictures still remain the best 
records we possess of the sunnier aspect of peasant life in England 
in the early years of the present centur.y. Wilkie Collins, as may be 
even yet remembered, was a very short man with a large head,i but 
his brother Charles was tall, finely proportioned, and one of the 
handsomest young fellows of his day. And by this accident he has 
become immortal, for Millais, seeking as usual for splendid models, 
caught him and made him into a " Huguenot" and a " Black Bruns- 
wicker," and other heroic individuals who combined dandyism and 
devotion in equal proportions. As a matter of taste, the well-brushed 
and greased hair and the brilliant polish of the Blucher boots in 
the last-mentioned character of Mr. Collins have always grated 
somewhat upon the present writer. No doubt they are pre- 
Raphaelite enough, for the dandies of the year 1850 still used 
bear's grease ad libitum, but in Millais' unsparingly realistic repro- 
duction of them the sentiment of the picture appears to suffer. 

A very splendid -looking man, at all events, Collins must have 
been ; but, like the other minor P.R.B.S, he couldn't paint, and 
subsequently he took to literature, and wrote rather a fascinating 
book of travel entitled A Cruise upon Wheels. He married a 
daughter of Charles Dickens, was indeed engaged to her at the 
period of the " Black Brunswicker " picture, for which she also posed. 
It was the painting of her white satin dress which really made 
Millais' reputation amongst the dealers : no more wonderful piece of 
purely imitative technique is to be seen to this day in English paint- 
ing — not even Mr. Tadema's too-celebrated marbles. Collins died 
young. 

Arthur Hughes is still alive, and still painting, it seems to me, 
with very much the same spirit as that of his early days. With 
Madox Brown, I wonder why his work is not more widely appreci- 
ated, and why his name is so seldom mentioned nowadays. Ruskin 
indeed spoke generously of him on several occasions, and his pictures 
are remarkable for much purity and delicacy of feeling, and are from 
their own point of view carefully and well painted. I remember 
seeing no picture from his hand which did not evidence refinement, 
industry, and labour. I think in the following description of him 
by Brown, sufficient stress is not laid upon a certain rather wilful 
strangeness, bordering upon affectation, which the composition, sub- 
ject-matter, and colour schemes of his pictures are apt to suggest. 
Assuredly his art is one which appeals less in an exhibition than 
in a home, and grows upon our favour with increased acquaintance. 
Hughes must be a middle-aged man by this time, and a disappointed 
one so far as public recognition is concerned, 

1 His portrait is prefixed to the essay on his writings given here. 

71 



Here is what Brown told me of him six years ago : — 

" I have not seen Arthur Hughes for a very long time. He was 
very ill-used because everybody ran him down ; and there were 
designs of his full of beauty and poetry — King Arthur designs, 
and things of that sort. A knight riding across a bridge in the 
time of King Arthur; up above in the sky are three angels 
flying above his head. ' The Shepherds and the Mahois.' 
Three ladies playing the violin — the Misses Lushington, it is 
said. In the Academy a few years ago I saw 'The Return,' 
an orchard in apple blossom, some children in a garden, and a 
father and son coming in in their working costume, as though 
they had been working in the fields all day. It is not above 
five years ago. It was hung in the best part of the Academy, 
but no one took any notice of it. But it was undoubtedly one 
of the best in the Academy. It was very strange, but it seemed 
to be Hughes's fate. He undoubtedly produced pictures which 
were most poetical. I saw a very pretty picture of his last year 
at Liverpool ; it was called ' Rest by the Way.' It was marked 
only thirty guineas. Not a single person knew that Arthur 
Hughes was there. Yet a few years ago Ruskin would have 
been writing about it, and everybody would have been talking 
about it. He is so very gentle and philosophic, being gentle- 
manly, and won't push himself forward. I have not seen Arthur 
Hughes for a very long time." 

There was one strange artist allied in sympathy with the pre- 
Raphaelites, who is still alive, I believe, though where he is living, 
or how, nobody seems to clearly know ; and I hear that he is 
supposed to have given up painting some years since. This was 
Windus, the painter of " Burd Helen," , a fine picture which, 
"though hung nearly out of sight" in the Academy Exhibition 
of 1856, was classed by Ruskin as only second to the "Autumn 
Leaves " of Millais (in the same year), and a painting which 
would hold its own "with the most noble pictures of all time." 
All time is a " tall " expression, but, so far as time has gone since 
then, Ruskin's words have not been unjustified. The exact price 
paid for it by Mr. Miller of Liverpool, its original purchaser, is 
unknown to me, probably between eighty and a hundred guineas at 
an outside estimate. The work came to the hammer two years later 
when this gentleman's collection was sold at Christie's, and then 
fetched two hundred guineas ; time passed, Windus disappeared from 
public view, the public — the picture-buying public I mean — and the 
dealers forgot his very name, and three months since " Burd Helen " 
appeared once more in the salerooms. I congratulated myself — for in 
the meantime I had seen and fallen in love with the picture in a loan 

72 



collection at Manchester, and here was a chance : I determined to 
have it at any price, expected even to have little opposition. Not a 
bit of it, the bidding mounted up quickly, and at about five hundred 
guineas I gave up the contest in disgust. It was under all the circum- 
stances a remarkable instance of a small picture by an unfashionable, 
and almost unknown living artist, being sold upon its merits for a 
very high price : the picture was by no means a popularly-conceived 
one, and the drawing of the horse, especially, was, what an old artist of 
my acquaintance used to call " rummy-funny." The picture fetched 
the price purely because the comment of Ruskin upon it was true, 
and with that comment the text was understood. Here is the 
quotation : 

" The work is thoughtful and intense in the highest degree. The 
pressure of the girl's hand on her side ; her wild, firm, desolate look 
at the stream — she not raising her eyes as she makes her appeal, 
for fear of the greater mercilessness in the human look than in the 
glaze of the gliding water — the just choice of the type of the rider's 
cruel face, and of the scene itself, so terrible in haggardness of rattling 
stones and ragged heath, are all marks of the action of the very 
grandest imaginative power — shortened only of hold upon our feel- 
ings because dealing with a subject too fearful to be for a moment 
believed true." ^ It is memorable that Rossetti himself painted an 
oil - picture with this title, though he spelt it in the older form of 
" Burd Alane," but this was not (according to W. M. Rossetti) till 
1861. 

Another most able artist, more technically perfect indeed than 
Windus, and more intimately connected with the pre-Raphaelites, 
was Mr. Fred. Sandys, the painter of "Medea" and other pictures, 
and even better known for his chalk portraits. In this latter 
phase of art, Mr. Sandys has in the England of to-day no superior, 
and few rivals : he is at once perfect in his handling of the 
material and in the understanding of its capacities and limitations. 
His work is fine as portraiture, and almost equally so as pictorial art. 
At least this is so with all his spontaneous, sympathetic, examples. 
Occasionally for a rich patron, or from weariness or haste, these 
finer qualities of sympathy and insight seem to disappear, and the 
result is only a piece of marvellous handicraft ; but at his best these 
chalk portraits rival those of Mr. Watts himself in dignity and 
expression, and far surpass that great artist in fidelity to their models. 
The quarrel and the intimacy of Sandys and Rossetti are subjects 
which I shall only allude to briefly for the sake of removing a very 
mistaken notion which somehow has obtained popular acceptance. 
This is that Mr. Sandys and Rossetti quarrelled because of a 
caricature of the pre-Raphaelites published by the former. 

1 Academy Notes, 1856. John Ruskin. . 
L 73 



The picture burlesqued was the " Sir Isumbras at the Ford " of 
Millais, a composition which, despite many beauties, lent itself easily 
to caricature — and the treatment by Sandys was most ingenious. 
The drawing was engraved and published, and did, I believe, give 
great offence to some of the weaker P.R.B., but Rossetti simply 
laughed at it, and his friendship for the author continued altogether 
unabated. At this time Sandys was living with Rossetti_ at Cheyne 
Walk, where there were also for some months at least Swinburne and 
George Meredith. A nice quiet quartette they must have been in 
those days, particularly when Joseph Knight and William Morris, 
James Hannay (sailor and novelist) and Edward Burne-Jones dropped 
in for the evening ! 

The real reason for the quarrel was that Rossetti chose to imagine 
Sandys had taken one of his subjects. I am assured by Madox 
Brown, who remembers the circumstances perfectly, that Sandys was 
entirely in the right, that the subject, which was one of " Beatrice in 
Heaven," was his own, and that Rossetti's claim to it was " nonsense." 
However this may have been, Rossetti delivered himself of a long 
discourse to Sandys on the obligations of friendship, to the effect that 
" everything he (Rossetti) had in the world was at the disposal of 
his friends save only his subjects ! They were sacred : let no man 
touch them " ; and much more rhodomontade of the same kind. To 
this Sandys wrote a hasty reply, and Rossetti a hastier answer, and 
— the friendship came to an end. 

Another painter who is usually spoken of as a pre-Raphaelite, 
though he was never in any way connected with the Brotherhood, is 
Edward Burne-Jones, now an Associate of the Royal Academy, with 
regard to whose art I have spoken at length in the other parts of 
this book. 

His acquaintance with Rossetti, begun in London, ripened into 
intimacy at Oxford, when Rossetti and Morris went up there to paint 
the Union frescoes. This came about through a Mr. Woodward, 
the architect of the Union. He came to ask Rossetti what he should 
do with the open spaces on the Union walls, and Rossetti in reply 
made the proposal that Morris and himself should paint them. This 
was on the condition that all materials were to be found and the 
painters were to live in Oxford at free quarters till the work was 
finished. In fact, very much Ruskin's ideal wage for an artist was 
to be supplied — " implements, bread and cheese, and occasionally a 
plate of figs to keep him in good humour." 

A good deal has been said about the nobility and unselfishness 
of this proposal, but the truth seems to be that the matter was 
chiefly regarded by Rossetti as a good opportunity for trying his 
hand at fresco — perhaps also for showing what he could do — and 
after the first enthusiasm had faded, the projected decoration dragged 

74 




c 

5 



on for some years, and was finally abandoned. A good many of 
young artists and Oxford men were associated in this scheme, 
amongst others— Morris, Val Prinsep (now R.A.), Arthur Hughes, 
Pollen, Burne-Jones, Spencer Stanhope, and A. Munro. The story 
of the painters' haste, the want of preparation of the walls, and the 
consequent fading of the frescoes, has all been frequently told, but 
the following brief characterisation by Madox Brown of the construc- 
tion put by the young enthusiasts on the "implements, and bread 
and cheese," which were to be provided them, is new and not un- 
' amusing. (Rossetti, I may mention, began two frescoes, of which he 
nearly completed one, the other was scarcely more than commenced.) 

" They ran up a tremendous bill for paint-brushes, scrapers, scaffold- 
ing, etc., and used to waste the materials frightfully. Rossetti 
used to throw the scrapers all over the place, and had jars of 
the most expensive paint, into which they used to let the 
scrapings and dust get, and, of course, the paint was spoilt. 
They also ran up an enormous bill for plum -puddings and 
turkeys, which they used to dine off every evening, and then 
finish up with whist." 

William Michael Rossetti's dry comment on this scheme I take 
from the memoir of his brother. It is probably written without 
intentional sarcasm. 

After naming the artists mentioned above, W. M. Rossetti says — 

"These, along with Alexander Munro for sculptural work, were 
all. Not any one of them was conversant with the processes 
of solid and permanent wall-painting. The works were exe- 
cuted, I understand, in a sort of water-colour distemper, and 
were from the beginning predestined by Fate and Climate to 
ruin. My brother allotted to himself two large spaces on the 
walls ; painted one subject more or less completely, and began 
or schemed at the other. . . . The scheme was in active opera- 
tion in. 1857, stagnated in 1858, and was partially revived and 
soon afterwards finally dropped in 1859." 

There is practically nothing now left of these frescoes, and the 
affair is only important from the intimacy produced and encouraged 
thereby between Rossetti and the Oxford group. In this respect 
its importance is very great ; for the literary side of pre-Raphaelitism, 
and the relation thereto of decorative art, were due to this intimacy 
of Messrs. Burne-Jones, Falkner, Swinburne, Pater, and Rossetti ; 
and had it not been for these literary and decorative channels, and for 
the culture stamp which they impressed upon the movement, there 
is much reason to doubt whether Rossetti's influence in art would 
not have gradually faded. 

75 



With Burne-Jones, however, to carry on and develop the romantic 
and mystical character of his painting ; with Morris and Falkner 
to give a practical application of his principles to decorative art ; 
with Swinburne and Pater to do sympathetic work in poetry and 
criticism ; and with Ruskin to defend the movement with his 
eloquence, and sustain it with his popularity and his money ; it is 
not difficult to see how far and in how many directions the new 
pre-Raphaelites extended their influence. 

The new pre-Raphaelites — that is the point of the matter, for from 
the time of these Oxford frescoes — possibly before, but certainly 
from then — the old idea — the idea that, I have tried to show, was 
always more honoured in the breach than the observance — passed 
away entirely. 

Having begun as a method of work, pre-Raphaelitism now became 
a method of feeling, a question of sentiment. The word soon 
grew into use as almost a synonym for mediaevalism, and is so 
frequently used to-day. But it was mediaevalism with a difference ; 
with the modern spirit added to the ancient form, and with a bias 
overwhelming and unfortunate towards a view of life which was 
neither wholesome nor manly. I have tried for many years to ex- 
plain the effect of the spirit of this later pre-Raphaelitism, especially 
as shown in the work of its chief master, Edward Burne-Jones, and 
I shall only repeat here that, in my opinion, this very beautiful art 
is not of a kind which will do the world much good, or upon which 
any true school can be founded. 

A very rich and vivid imagination, joined to unremitting industry 
and an exquisite sense of colour, have resulted in producing Burne- 
Jones's painting, have united to render his pictures uniquely attractive, 
I acknowledge their beauty : I almost reverence their achievement. 
But none the less do I see clearly how fatal is their influence, how 
perverted their meaning, how vain their accomplishment. I see 
how little suited is this spirit of sick-sad dreams to the country I 
love, and the folks who have made England in the old time, and 
who are making it to-day. And as I look back over the great art 
of former times, I seek in vain for any painting or sculpture which 
has based its appeal, or found its beauty in a panegyric of the 
vanished years, in an endeavour to forget the circumstance, the 
obligations, and the meaning of the artist's own generation. 

And more than this, I regret to say that I am forced to believe that 
these pictures are, irrespective of their mediaevalism and their arch-, 
aisms of form and subject, unwholesome in themselves. They appear 
to me based upon a view of the passion and the power of love which 
is untrue and undesirable. The pictures are morbid, and not less so 

76 



because the personages shown therein are apt to be epicure — though 
perhaps we may not rightly term the work sensual, it is so ^uni- 
formly and intensely sensuous, that perhaps the baser intention '^had 
been less harmful in result. 

After all, if we limit a teacher in books, ought we not also to limit 
teaching by inference and suggestion ? and if we do not actually 
limit such we ought at least to recognise that such teaching is no less 
real, and perhaps even more effective. 

I remember when Swinburne's Poems and Ballads came out the 
outcry that was made, but Poems and Ballads was only the 
poetical expression of pre-Raphaelitism as exemplified in Burne- 
Jones's pictures — to whom indeed the book was dedicated. The same 
criterion would approve or condemn both. Should the painter be 
blamed for the aspect of his work, for its meaning, for the mystery 
of the flesh and love of which his pictures hint ? Ah, that opens a 
wide question, the question of an artist's duty to himself and his 
art and to the public at large. I remember Swinburne saying, in a 
brilliant preface to his edition of some Coleridge lyrics, that " in 
the main we got out of every man (every artist) what he had in 
him to give " ; and that " I am that I am is the best answer to any 
impertinence of praise or blame," and so perhaps for the artist him- 
self the point of view must be conceded, but we may at least make 
our own deductions from admiration or gratitude, if the painter's 
exquisite doing is such as to enfeeble our manhood, or relax our 
energies. And this is the more necessary as the perfection of his art 
increases, and the younger men begin to form themselves upon his 
manner and re-echo his spirit. 

Is it not strange, this outcome of the P.R.B. theories of simplicity, 
earnestness, and fidelity to nature ? This queer half-ascetic, half- 
voluptuous art ; occupied with Virgins Holy and otherwise, angels, 
mermaidens, mediaeval knights, emblems of night and morning, 
seedtime and harvest, virtue and vice. Yet throughout every mani- 
festation of its quaint sexless beauty this art of Burne-Jones has 
throughout splendour and delicacy. If we leave on one side the 
subject of the work and its inner motive — or motivelessness ; if we 
will condone the absence of all natural visual fact, and content our- 
selves with a mosaic of beautiful lines and tints ; if we will let his 
figures stand, as well they may, for fair-seeming shows to whom 
humanity has no kinship — we may then gain from this artist the most 
subtle, the most exquisite pleasure. Only, do not let us deceive 
ourselves : don't let us attempt to call this a pure art or an ennobling 
one. It is neither : its scent hangs heavy on the moral air as the 
scent of tuberose in a heated room ; the involution of its fancies is 
morbid and artificial as the twisted robes and strained attitudes of 

n 



the characters in the pictures. Above all, the outward mediaevalism 
of form is a sham ; as is the semi-asceticism, and above all the 
religion. A sham, I mean, in themselves, not because of the painter's 
wilful pretence, but because his imagination, delicate, prodigal, and 
refined, is nevertheless distorted and unnatural. Once, in all jesting 
friendliness, Rossetti made a rhyme about this artist, which, as was 
his wont, went to the root of the subject. It was written, we must 
remember, many years ago, when both rhymester and rhymed upon 
were young — 

" There is a young painter called Jones, 
A cheer here, and hisses, and groans ; 
The state of his mind 
Is a shame to mankind. 
But a matter of triumph to Jones." ^ 

A "matter of triumph," that is the gist of the question : for Jones does 
not feel, does not believe that any imperfection, any morbid bias exists 
in his painting. I remember his telling me some years ago that 
art was to him an enchanted world, to which Rossetti had given him 
the key, and in which he had lived ever since. And this is, I think, 
only a slightly exaggerated expression of his point of view. He does 
rather pride himself on living apart, in this enchanted country, and on 
refusing to consider himself as belonging to England and the nine- 
teenth century. A pity in some ways that he was not born in Germany, 
and did not have three years "with the colours" as a boy. Of his 
followers, I must here give little more than the names. There is 
Spencer Stanhope, who of late years has lived at Florence, and who 
in the earlier years of the Grosvenor Gallery, was a faithful, if (as 
Ruskin once unkindly said) a futile echo of his master. There is 
Eveleen Pickering, now Evelyn de Morgan, whose work is almost 
equally founded on that of Burne-Jones and Stanhope. There is 
Mr. Henry Holiday, who, unless I am mistaken, used to work as an 
assistant to Burne-Jones, and who has since made some reputation 
as a decorative artist. There is " Tommy " Rooke, as his friends all 
call him, and as even strangers are tempted to think of him ; surely 
the most faithful and admiring of followers, the most patient and 
delicate of assistants. There is Fairfax Murray, who knows silently 
more about the inner life and details of the P.R.B. and their adherents 
than any one living, and who keeps his information to himself, 
and whose own painting is a peculiar mixture of Rossetti and Burne- 
Jones. There is Mr. Strudwick, a most delicate workman, and full 
of quaint decorative fancies. There is Walter Crane, plainly owing his 
inspiration to the same source, and turning it to pleasanter, and more 
inventive, and more practical uses for delighting children and making 
our houses fanciful and pretty. All of these have fallen under the 

* This rhyme (and others to a similar effect) has been so widely repeated during the past 
twenty years, that I feel justified in inserting it here. 

78 



spell of this later pre-Raphaelitism, as have numberless amateurs, 
and many less well-known artists. At one time — almost twenty years 
since — the disease was so catching, so prevalent, that it was happily 
dubbed the pre-Raphaelite measles, and no student was supposed to 
be safe until he had taken, and — perhaps — till he had got rid of them. 
Who did not take them, from the President of the Royal Academy 
down to Sidney Colvin, who indeed took them very severely — 
witness the Portfolio about 1870! Of course there were different 
kinds, suited to various constitutions. James Linton (not yet Sir 
James) had them a la Rossetti, and used to produce wonderful long- 
lagged pages and high-bosomed maidens, with legs five or six feet 
long, slender waists, and gigantic flaxen plaits of hair. Brett (R.A. 
now) had them d, la Holman Hunt, and won Ruskin's earnest 
praise for painting every blade of grass in the Heme Hill fields, 
through which the Professor took his daily walk. Poynter " had 
them badly " : witness his illustrations to the Dalziel Bible (and first- 
rate they are too !) ; and all sorts of people one would never expect 
fell victims ; as, for instance, George Pinwell, and for a short time 
Fred Walker and Houghton and Val Bromley, and of course 
Prinsep, whose contribution ci la Rossetti hangs to-day on the 
walls of the Arts Club, and is far away the best picture I have 
ever seen from his hand. Queerest of all people to take them 
were George du Maurier and Linley Sambourne: the latter has 
them to this day. Du Maurier at the time was indeed profoundly 
influenced, and the fine drawings to Thackeray's Esmond, for instance, 
show Rossetti in every line — not as imitations, but with that resem- 
blance in difference which is the way a great artist rightly influences 
a younger one. Look, for instance of this, at the drawing I repro- 
duce here, entitled " Death the Friend." We might almost fancy 
the lady was Rossetti's favourite model, and the whole spirit of the 
composition is his own. 

And amongst the younger artists of the present time this P.R.B. 
influence is still strongly marked. The work of Henry Ryland, 
C. H. Shannon, C. S. Ricketts, especially, clearly derives its inspira- 
tion from Rossetti and Jones, and all the clique who draw for that 
extraordinary periodical The Century Guild Hobby-Horse are lineal 
descendants pf the P.R.B. Examples of some of these painters 
will be found in the later pages of this book, but space fails me to 
mention their work in detail. These brief notes on a subject of great 
artistic interest, and as it seems to me importance, must end here, as 
my final chapters are entirely devoted to the consideration of the 
special characteristics of Rossetti's and Holman Hunt's painting. 



79 



IX.— THE PAINTING AND THE POETRY 
OF DANTE GABRIEL ROSSETTI.^ 




IhERE are some men of whom it is the sad fortune 
that throughout their lives the praise and blame that 
they experience are given in an equally exaggerated 
degree ; they are never free from the dust and con- 
fusion of the fierce battle which partizans raise around 
their work and their character. As to many such, 
the temper of their friends, the spirit of the age in which they live, 
the circumstances amongst which their lot is cast, are responsible 
for the separateness of their lives, for the dust of praise or blame 
which surrounds their achievements and their failures. _ But for 
others — and these perhaps are the nobler spirits — friendship, circum- 
stance, and surroundings, are less responsible than some strange 
peculiarities of temper and intellect, sufficiently powerful to unite 
with themselves a portion of the practices and theories of every- 
day life, and to reject without hesitation all that is incompatible. 
Such as these last are of the old prophetic temper ; of this race have 
sprung those who in every generation have raised their voices in 
denunciation or warning of the creeds amongst which they lived. 
They may have no gospel to deliver ; their voices may carry no 
message that the world can profit by. Clear messages, as George 
Eliot tells us, are rare in this world of to-day, but if their discontent 
is sufficiently genuine to affect their lives, if their personality is 
sufficiently strong to affect the lives of others, and if their genius is 
sufficiently great to proclaim itself as a thing apart, having a special 
and inimitable character of its own, — then, whatever may be the 
perversities and fantasies of such men, they are sure to become 

* Written only a few months after Rossetti's death ; pubUshed in the Contemporary Review. 
I have inserted this article mainly because I discovered with much pleasure, and even more 
surprise, that Mr. Theodore Watts (the most intimate friend Rossetti ever had) was disposed 
to consider the paper as in some respects adequate. Mr. Watts's own words on this subject 
are so infinitely beyond anything I could ever write that I must refer all readers interested in 
Rossetti to his article, entitled " The Truth about Rossetti," in the Contemporary Review, 1883. 

80 




»,«--■-> un^ 



leaders of those who share their peculiarities without possessing their 
power. And the resistance of the world at large to the eccentricities 
of any such cult has the inevitable effect of intensifying the zeal with 
which its eccentricities are manifested — of causing the statement of 
the creed to be made in cruder and cruder terms. It sometimes 
happens that the leader of the school, wearied by the desertion or 
disgusted by the shallowness of his followers, breaks with them and 
his old theories, and becomes like other men ; but more frequently 
he is bound by the acts of his clientele, and what was at first a mere 
youthful enthusiasm, and a passionate revolt against convention, 
becomes the very habit of his soul. 

It is too soon after Mr. Dante Gabriel Rossetti's death, whilst 
so many of his associates and relations are still alive, to discuss the 
question how far the peculiarities of his painting and poetry were 
due to inherent personal characteristics, and how far to the surround- 
ings and circumstances of his life ; but it is almost equally difficult to 
deal with the question of his art without making some mention of 
those circumstances, for, perhaps, in no painter of modern times was 
the personal and the artistic life so strangely intermingled. Those, 
for instance, who criticise so severely the strangeness and the mourn- 
ful tendency of Rossetti's pictures when taken as a whole, and who 
do not scruple to attribute to the painter deliberate affectation and 
assumed grief for the mere sake of eccentricity or effect, would do 
well to take into account the circumstances of his Italian descent, his 
father's exile from his native land, and his own great sorrow in 
losing, in the first years of his wedded life, the wife to whom he was 
so passionately attached. An alien in race and an alien in spirit, 
suffering from keen private grief, and met without by an opposition 
to his art, which made up in personal invective what it lacked in 
reasonable judgment, it is perhaps little wonderful that young 
Rossetti, conscious as he must have been of great and original 
powers, isolated himself from the general public, and found a bitter 
consolation in giving up to dreams of the past, those powers which 
had no longer any object in the future. 

Every one knows by this time jthat well-worn story of the pre- 
Raphaelite Brethren, of the fury with which they were both attacked 
and defended, and I do not intend to dwell upon these things here ; 
but I must note that practically Rossetti was the chief artistic aiid 
imaginative leader of the movement. Mr. Holman Hunt was a man 
of supreme industry, undoubted keenness of observation, and 
technical skill ; but, though an enthusiastic disciple, he had no great 
original pictorial ability.^ What he has done — and much of it is very 

* I hope I may be pardoned this repetition of criticism in the early portion of the chapter 
on the history of pre-Raphaelitism. 

M 8l 



beautiful and very noble work — has been done with an infinity 
of labour, often prolonged over years, upon each single picture. Mr. 
Millais was, as an artist, gifted with every faculty except that of 
caring what he painted or drew ; he was as impartial as the sunlight 
that falls upon the just and the unjust. The quickening influence 
that fell upon both these men, and aroused their intelligence and 
stirred their feelings, was the passionately emotional genius of 
Rossetti, and looking back to early Millais pictures, one can see as 
plainly as if it were written upon the canvas — Here I was painting 
what Rossetti felt : ^ here his influence had passed away. 

If any of my readers happen to have the early quarto edition of 
Tennyson's poems with the illustrations, and will take the trouble to 
compare the drawings therein by Millais, Hunt and Rossetti ; and 
then, with these designs in their mind, go and examine the Rossettis 
which are now being displayed at the Royal Academy, they will see 
beyond doubt whose was the guiding influence amongst the so-called 
pre-Raphaelites, and why traces of mediaeval Italy kept cropping 
out in realistic pictures of English orchards, or illustrations of sacred 
history. Look, for instance, at the drawing by Mr. Holman Hunt 
in illustration of the Lady of Shalott. Why, this is a Rossetti in 
all its main points ! Face and figure, and arrangement of drapery 
and pose, are all due to the influence of the last-mentioned painter. 
And any number of similar illustrations might be given. If the history 
of this strange artistic movement — strange alike in its inception, its 
fierce energy, and its brief, stormy life — ever comes to be told from 
the inside, as alone it can be adequately written, it "will be found 
that in every sense of the word Rossetti was the head, the brain, of 
the Society, and that his extraordinary personal influence alone gave 
any coherence to the practices of the various members. We can all 
see now, though, perhaps, I may be blamed for saying it in so many 
words, that neither Sir John Millais nor Mr. Holman Hunt is of the 
reforming type of character. They were once, when they were 
square men in round holes ; and, to this day, their art is the better 
for the Sturm und drang period through which Rossetti hurled 
it. But the influence is gone, — had faded long before he died to 
whom it owed its origin ; and many an admirer of " The Awakened 
Conscience" of Mr. Hunt, and the " Mariana " of Sir John Millais, 
must have found the want, in the same painters' later pictures, of the 
deep poetical feeling which sprang from the enthusiastic spirit and 
vivid imag^ination of their brother pre-Raphaelite. 

In speaking, therefore, of Rossetti's art, and trying to estimate 
its worth, we must always bear in mind • that, as a set-off" against 

' I am bound to add that Holman Hunt's influence is also strongly perceptible in some 
of Millais' early work. 

82 



many eccentricities and deficiencies of treatment, and many limita- 
tions of thought and feeling, we have this fact — that it was powerful 
to trouble the artistic Bethesda to the very depths of its sluggish 
waters, and to set artists upon new tracks of execution and new 
impulses of thought. Surely no mean praise to a painter, that, 
under his awakening power, other painters did better and more 
vital work than they have done before or siace ; and that the 
forward impulse in art which he was mainly instrumental in creating, 
bids fair to widen out into issues of which no one can at present 
predict the end. 

But I am not concerned here to defend Rossetti as the leader of 
the pre-Raphaelites, nor to ask for fame for him on any secondary 
ground whatever. I am desirous to point out again what seem to 
me to be the actual achievements of this master in the two arts in 
which he laboured ; and I am the more anxious to do this (if my 
readers will pardon me a single word of personal explanation), 
because I have been accused of late by several persons of a desire 
to depreciate the work of the pre - Raphaelites, and to attribute 
thereto demoralising influences which it does not possess. The 
sentence which so afflicted Ruskin that he left off writing criticisms 
of contemporary painters — Damn the fellow, why doesn't he back his 
friends ? — has been hurled at me directly or indirectly many times, 
and the attempt seems hopeless to make painters understand that 
we may admire great qualities without shutting the eyes to weak 
ones, or that one can honestly enjoy a picture, and yet be forced 
to consider its artist neither a Titian nor a Michelangelo. The 
result is that because a writer is not a partizan upon one side, it is 
straightway concluded that he must be a partizan on the other, and 
if he ventures to find fault with a single pre-Raphaelite failing, he is 
told that he is not entitled to admire a single pre-Raphaelite great- 
ness. Of course such reasoning is absurd, but even absurdity 
becomes wsrth demolishing when it gains universal acceptance ; and 
in the art-world of London at the present day, we can hardly gain a 
hearing for any view" of the matter which is not, either professedly 
or actually, a partizan one. Are you for Belt or Verheyden ? That 
is the form of question nowadays in other artistic matters than the 
great libel case ; and the man who in reply murmurs gently " Arcades 
ambo" is looked upon with contempt, or more probably still as a 
spy in both camps. 

In the first place, then, as regards Rossetti's work, I must say 
at once that I propose to consider it as a whole, not confining one 
portion of my remarks to the poetry, another to the painting, but 
treating both manifestations of his intellect together. And this for 
the simple reason that it does not appear to me to be possible to 
separate them without doing both the painter and the poet gross 

83 



injustice. Of the technical perfection of workmanship in each, a 
few words may have to be said separately ; but for the discussion 
of the more emotional, imaginative, and purely, intellectual qualities, 
the two divisions of art must here be considered as one. Now, 
throughout the whole of our subject's painting, and throughout 
the whole of his poetry, there runs one dominant idea, and only 
one — Love baffled by Death. It is on this that he rings the changes 
— very beautiful changes they are, touching it deftly now on this 
side and now on that, dressing it up in all kinds of strange and 
fantastically beautiful garments, hinting at it subtly through images 
of pleasure and pain, shadowing it forth in various allegorical ways, 
proclaiming it fiercely as in the voice of one just bereaved. But 
always, if we look long enough at poem or picture, we find the 
trace of this idea ; speaking broadly, this is the beginning and the 
end of his philosophy. We say the end, for with the victory of 
death the master seems to close his story, though now and then *he 
hints to us that he has heard of a heaven and a hell where all will 
be set right. Still, these are not part of his saying or his painting ; 
they may be true, but they are not the facts that impress him, they 
are too faint, too far off, for his pencil or his verse. Or if he tells us 
of them at all, he does so in such glowing sensuous images, with so 
resolute an adherence to natural facts, that we recognise only another 
earth in his Paradise or his Inferno. Mark, for instance, how the 
Blessed Damozel leans out from the gold bar of heaven. 

" And still she bowed herself and stooped 
Out of the circling charm; 
Until her bosom must have made 

The bar she leaned on warm, 
And the lilies lay |is if asleep 
Along her bended arm." 

It was said once by a writer anxious to make out a case against 
the pre-Raphaelite school of modern poetry, that sensuality was 
one of the chief characteristics of Rossetti's verse, and certain 
quotations^ were given to prove this. Time has effectually dis- 
posed of that charge, and the misrepresentations on which it was 
founded have been adequately confuted ; but the fact has hardly been 
sufficiently noticed, that the real ground of the accusation is due to 
the fact of the poet-painter being unable to dissever his pictorial 
from his poetic faculty. He habitually thought (if such an expres- 
sion is allowable) in terms of painting. He could not dissever . 
his most purely intellectual ideas, from colour and form,, and the 
intrusion of these physical facts into his poetry, in places where they 
are unexpected and unnecessary, gives to hasty readers and 
superficial critics such a wrong impression. And in the same way 
as he charges a poem with n^ore colour and form than it can well 

^ The above verse was one of the number. 
84 




iM'^ ROSSKTTl WHEN MISS SIDDAL, 1.)RA^^■1NG 

D. fj. ROSSKTTl 

Facsimile of a I'cn dran-ui^' in the fosscs.sitn of the author 



bear as poetry, so does he charge his pictures with a weight of idea, 
which their form and colour can scarcely realise, and in both he calls 
upon the spectator to be at once the witness and the interpreter 
of his work. From this there results in his poetry the following 
effect — that he is at his finest when he has to tell some plain story, 
or exemplify some comparatively simple thought, the insertion into 
which of physical facts will heighten, rather than jar upon the 
meaning ; or in verses which treat intellectual ideas from a purely 
sensuous basis, such, for instance, as in those sonnets which are 
concerned with the passion of love. When, however, he seeks to 
treat either a purely intellectual, or a purely spiritual subject, he 
fails almost inevitably, and that apparently in painting as well as 
in poetry. Like Antaeus, if he is held off the earth too long his 
strength fails him. This painter-like quality makes his verse puzzlingly 
contradictory, for in idea, the poetry is almost without exception of a 
singularly pure and intellectual character, and very often of high 
spiritual significance. 

Turning from his verse to his painting, the same curious con- 
tradiction is forced upon our attention. We find continually in his 
pictures, that the reproduction of the sensuous part of his subject is 
interfered with by the strange half-refining, half-abstract, quality of 
his intellect. This is especially evident in his treatment of the form 
of the human body, in which he has two methods, both adapted to 
the same end, or rather, perhaps, both unconsciously tending to the 
same end. One is to leave out as much as possible all detailed 
drawing, to suffuse the whole body in a mist of colour, in which no 
modelling of flesh or structure of bone is clearly visible. The other 
method is to accentuate those portions of the body, or the features, 
which best help to express emotion, and so to use and arrange them 
as to produce a definite emotional idea. The long necks in which so 
many of his female figures rejoice, the slender hands with fingers 
turning round one another, the heavy curved lips, and the other 
physical peculiarities to be traced in his works, are all due to the 
passionately sensuous, but equally passionately intellectual, nature of 
Rossetti ; they are the record of a man whose sense of beauty was 
always being disturbed by his sense of feeling. 

When all is said and done, this sense of beauty is that upon 
which his great praise must be founded, and is also the ultimate test 
by which all painters must be judged. Artists and ci"itics may tell us 
that this detail is impossible, and the other absurd ; the moralist may 
preach that there is here too morbid an insistence upon one idea ; the 
general public may deplore the lack of their much-loved catchpenny 
subjects ; and the Philistine may laugh at the eccentric form in which 
Mr. Rossetti's ideas are produced. But if the net result is beautiful, if 

85 



the one idea is truly and finely expressed, the chief aim of the painter 
has been achieved ; and the world, which is only unjust for a brief 
space — too often, alas ! the space of a lifetime — will not let the work 
die. This is the rock upon which so many artists, especially so many 
modern English and French artists, split ; their pictures are frequently 
possessed of every merit save that one which alone would justify 
their existence. In this respect the subject of my article is entitled 
to be considered as a supreme artist. In some of his works, 
especially in his later ones, when the fatal influence of chloral was 
beginning to wither his powers, there are distortions and even ugli- 
nesses such as can scarcely be condoned, and we cannot help 
regretting that, throughout a great part of his life, the influence of 
one type of woman should have been so great as to appear in all his 
pictures — now as Proserpine, now as the Virgin Mary, and so 
throughout the range of his poetical fancies, and the old legends with 
which he occupied his pencil. But when all these deficiencies are 
subtracted, or allowed for, there remain a series of pictures which 
have such marvellous glory of colouring, such intensely vivid feeling, 
and such beauty of detail, that I at least know not where to find their 
parallel. They are living, breathing poems, at once delicate and 
strong, passionate and pure, and appear to say the last word possible 
upon their various subjects. 

Take as an example of this, the celebrated picture of the painter's 
wife, done after her death, and entitled " Beata Beatrix." The subject 
is simple enough — a three-quarter-length figure of a woman, whose 
head has fallen slightly backward upon her shoulders in sleep, which 
we feel will soon be that of death. Fluttering in froAt of her is a 
crimson bird, bearing a poppy in its mouth ; behind her a sun-dial ; 
while in the distance of the Florentine streets stand Dante and the 
Angel of Love watching. Descriptions of pictures, as some one says, 
are stupid things at the best ; but here they seem to me even more 
than usually inadequate. No amount of description could convey 
any hint of the intense and beautiful peace which marks this painting. 
It is like that of summer woods at early dawn, before the first 
bird has begun to sing, and the last star faded. Nor only are the 
face and expression perfect ; the whole picture tells a story with 
an emphasis only the more clear because of the intense quietude. Like 
the whisper of a great actress, we hear, and feel the weight of every 
syllable. And this is fine technically, as well as emotionally, for 
curiously enough in this, probably his finest picture, Rossetti shows 
little or none of that wilfulness so frequently present in his works. 
The drawing, if not very markedly good, is unobtrusive and unobjec- 
tionable ; the disposition of the drapery (always a strong point with 
this artist) is simplicity and dignity itself, the position full both of 
grace and suggestion, is at the same time markedly original, and 

86 



represented with the utmost ease ; while of the colouring no one 
can speak in terms of too high praise. The picture is suffused 
with a misty sunshine, and all the hues therein are somewhat low in 
tone ; but into their transparent depths the eye looks down and down, 
as through the still waters of a lake ; and the effect of the whole is 
that of some very marvellous piece of quiet music, played at a great 
distance. This picture, too, gives us a good opportunity of noticing 
the strange combination of realism and idealism in Rossetti's painting, 
a combination which is of course due to, and is, indeed, scarcely more 
than one manifestation of, that habit of mind of which we have spoken 
above. What may be called the furniture of his pictures, the caskets 
which his women hold in their hands, the censers and candlesticks 
and musical instruments which they use, or the flowers or foliage with 
which they are adorned or surrounded, is almost invariably drawn 
and painted with the greatest delicacy and skill from the objects them- 
selves. And those who went to the sale, which took place after his 
death, of the painter's effects must have seen many of the strangely- 
shaped instruments and brazen vessels which appear in these pictures. 

But with all this attention to natural or artificial fact, Rossetti is far 
from being a realistic painter ; indeed it is only in these subsidiary 
facts that his realism shows. His manner of painting flesh and 
drapery is utterly opposed to that which obtains so greatly in the 
present day, which takes account of every variation of texture, which 
in fact aims at producing the actual impression on the eye which is 
produced by the real thing. In the sense that Alma-Tadema is a 
flesh painter, or M. Lefebvre, Rossetti is none — and would not be if 
he could. It seems strange that this man, who has been accused so 
strongly of sensualism, would have undoubtedly said that the modern 
practice of representing the nude model, was degraded in feeling and 
inartistic in practice. 

What he attempts to do in his painting of flesh, is to combine its 
translucencies of colour with as much of the form as he can show 
without making the details prominent, but never to suggest the 
actual texture of the flesh itself — never to put a nude model on to 
his canvas.^ When he paints a woman who shows breast or arm, 
he does so as frankly as a Greek would have done, and with as 
absolute a reliance upon its being the right and natural thing. The 
coarseness which strikes so vividly one who enters the French Salon 
for the first time, and sees hanging on every side life-size studies of 
nude models, is entirely absent from his work, nor can any hint of 
such feeling be found therein. One reason for this lies probably in 

1 Perhaps I should ^dd here that Rossetti, to the best of my belief never painted a wholly 
nude figure. I possess a rather curious pen-drawing of his of a nude woman getting out of 
bed, and holding out her arms for some clothes which a maid-servant is reaching down 
from a peg ; but what was the date of this, or the meaning of the subject, I do not know 

87 



the fact, which is difficult to account for, but which the history of 
art proves to be certain, that really great colour can hardly give an 
impression of coarseness. It seems somehow as if colour were a 
furnace whose fierce heat burned up all mean and unworthy things. 
But a still stronger reason is probably that of the painter's own 
personality,— one which, as I have been trying to show, sought 
not to clothe physical fact with emotional and intellectual ideas, but 
to express these ideas in terms of fact. The difference may very 
likely appear to my readers to be slight and unimportant ; to me, I 
confess, it is the reverse. The man was a poet by nature, he became 
an artist by education, and owing to an intense desire to express 
himself in painting as well as in song. The first medium afforded 
his passionate. Southern spirit the glory which he needed ; the last 
gave an outlet to the melody with which his nature was endowed. 
The action and reaction were very subtle, and one can see now that 
while the painting certainly prevented his poetry from being as fine 
as it might have been ; the poetry invariably upheld and dignified 
his painting even in its wildest moments. Across both, the reflec- 
tion of the man's own vivid Italian disposition often fell with startling 
effect, obtruding itself and its feelings into every variety of subject, 
and in all kinds of diverse manners ; and one of the strangest qualities 
in this painter's strange art, is the continual conflict, both in his 
paintings and. his poems, of the passionate egoism which was the 
natural bent of his mind, intensified by the circumstances of his life, 
and the sense of dramatic fitness which is, perhaps, his strongest 
intellectual characteristic. 

I hardly know whether this conflict shows most clearly in poetry 
or in painting; it is perfectly evident in both, and his finest 
work in either art is to be found, as we should naturally expect, in 
such subjects as those in which the dramatic presentment of the 
poem or painting is little more than an echo of some personal 
mood. This gives their intense power to such poems as Jenny 
and The Last Confession, and in a minor degree to the ballad and 
the paintings of The Blessed Damozel. This gives point and 
meaning to the pictures of Beatrice and Dante ; and again, this inter- 
feres continually with his dramatic realisation of many poetical 
ideas with which he deals, but from which he cannot expel his own 
personality, and which appear, in his presentment of them, so tinged 
with subjective influences as to be dramatically feeble. 

I have no wish to dwell on this point ; only we must remember 
that the man being what he was, — out of suits with fortune, and 
himself, from the beginning of his life, having suffered the great loss 
of his wife almost as soon as he had been united to her, being sub- 
sequently possessed by the strange beauty of the face which he has 

88 



made so familiar to us, having his health ruined by indulgence in 
chloral, and his spirit broken by one of the most .painful diseases 
which a man can bear ; having become as suspicious of his friends 
as his enemies, and living in almost complete isolation, it is not 
wonderful that, towards the close of his life, his painting grew to have 
little more than a desponding echo of the earlier beauty : an oft- 
repeated cry of grief or weariness. 

If, however, we take his work in the best period, between the 
dates, that is to say, of 1850 and 1870, and look with especial care 
at the earlier drawings, we find that if the painter repeated himself 
*in later years, he did so from no lack of invention or imagina- 
tion, and that his youth, indeed, shows an inventiveness and a fancy 
which are only too exuberant and are apt to waste their power by 
being too lavishly displayed. In the Fine Arts Club at Savile Row 
there is at the present time ^ a collection of Rossettis which is especi- 
ally rich in his early water-colour works, and in these alone is to be 
found sufficient artistic material to supply an ordinary painter for 
his lifetime. We cannot stay to mention these separately, but must 
just call attention to the very lovely one which represents the first 
meeting of Dante and Beatrice, a drawing which, for bright beauty 
of colour, originality of treatment, and vivid grasp of its subject, is 
perhaps the finest Rossetti ever conceived. In this, as in many 
others of the same period, not a trace is to be found of the heavy 
despairing state of mind which shows" in his later work. They are 
bright, almost blithe, in conception, and are painted with a simple 
purity of colour which is akin only to that used by the very early 
Italian painters. Looking at these, we understand the early work 
of Millais and Hunt, and see whence it derived its inspiration. 
And it is curious to notice that these works are infinitely more 
English in the style of face and personality than those of later years. 

A word must be said of the one scene of English modern life 
which the painter attempted — the picture known by the name of 
" Found," and drawn in illustration of a ballad by Mr. W. B. Scott, 
one of Rossetti's oldest friends. This represents ^. woman /ound in 
London by her quondam Jover, after many a year of shameful life. 
He is holding her hands and looking down towards her ; she has 
shrunk away from his touch and gaze, and is crouching against a 
low wall. In the background is a bridge over the river ; by the side 
of the man stands, not without its added touch of terrible meaning, 
a cart with a netted calf bleating piteously. The time is early 
morning, and the bridge and distance are blue and misty ; the whole 
picture is pale and cold in its effect of colour. This the Academy 
catalogue informs us, not quite correctly, was painted in 1882 ; as a 

' i.e. 1883. 
N 89 



matter of fact it was, I believe, painted in 1868, or thereabouts, and 
was only slightly altered, and, my informant assures me, considerably 
spoilt, in 1882. However this may be, there is some intrinsic 
evidence for it to be found in the small pen-and-ink drawing for the 
same subject, which is now being exhibited at the Fine Arts Club, 
wherein the face of the countryman is different and far finer in 
expression than in the finished picture. The chief interest centres in 
the face of the woman, and it is the extraordinary power which Mr. 
Rossetti has shown in this portion of the picture which renders the 
whole so supremely interesting. Few artists have cared to grapple with 
an idyll of London life such as this, painting the naked truth with no 
extenuating circumstances, and many of those who see this picture 
are no doubt excessively shocked at being brought face to face with 
such a scene. But it is a fitting corollary to the painter's poem of 
Jenny — the last word which was needed to render that story com- 
plete. In very truth Mr. Rossetti has been able to imprint on a 
woman's face, seen in one supreme moment, traces of all the gay, 
reckless, shameful, shameless, horrible -life she has led since first 
she lay amongst the blown grass in the meadows — 

" And wondered where the city was." 

It is all here — past innocence and present guilt, and almost-forgotten 
love and honour, struggling to drown memory that will not die, and 
shame, and terror, and despair. Not a pleasant picture, but one 
which goes to the root of the matter with which it deals ; one which 
is, as Ruskin once said of a somewhat similar- painting by Mr. 
Holman Hunt, "powerful to meet full in the front the social evil 
of the age in which it is painted ; to waken into mercy the cruel 
thoughtlessness of youth, and subdue the severities of judgment 
into the sanctity of compassion," Looking at this picture, at the 
poem of Jenny and The Last Confession, and at the ballads of 
Rose Mary and ' Twixt Holmscote and Hurstcote, we touch, I think, 
upon the real strength of Rossetti, a strength which underlay all his 
eccentricities and weaknesses. He never paltered with the facts of 
the case, no matter how terrible ; but in the life of others, as well as 
in his own, cut down to the truth. No wonder he gave offence to the 
decorous, and was a stumbling-block to the shallow. What do either 
want with unpleasant fact, told in the barest and least conventional 
terms .? And Rossetti's frankness reached almost to the verge of 
cynicism ; he spared others no more than he did himself 

Throughout all, however, and despite the curious garb in which 
he disguised his meaning, truth was always his aim; the nature 
of the man was sincere throughout. In an age when painters 
have few beliefs, and hold those very lightly, this man scarcely 
stirred a step in art except in obedience to his own inspiration, 
and was strong enough, despite all his failings, to modify the 

90 



^-^jt^fe^*^ P;^^^^^; 



4 %i^W^k 








FOUND. — D. G. RossF.TTi 



practices, if he did not actually change the creeds, of half the artists 
of his time. To him, as we have said, Millais owed his poetical 
inspiration, and his most beautiful pictures were painted under that 
influence ; to him Holman Hunt was even more indebted ; from 
him, though soon able to strike out a line for himself, sprang Mr. 
Burne-Jones, fully equipped for the fight, like a second Minerva, 
from the brain of a second Jove ; to his early friendship with William 
Moms at Oxford, when he went there to paint the frescoes in the 
Union, we probably owe the determining impulse which set the 
author of the Earthly Paradise on the road to that decoration which 
has changed the look of half the houses in London, and substituted 
art for ugliness all over the kingdom ; and to him probably, if we 
could trace it back, we owe, almost equally with Ruskin, the growth 
of the feeling that art was more than a mere trade, and that an 
artist has duties to himself and his art, as well as to his pocket and 
his public. 

^ For his fame it is probably unfortunate that he did not confine 
himself to poetry, or that he did not begin painting earlier, study 
it more rigorously, and confine himself to it more entirely ; but 
for the world at large I doubt whether he could have done, being 
what he was, better work. He was to all young artists and young 
writers a tower of strength, a light to encourage them to despise 
conventions, and to give up their lives to their art. He was, in 
fact, a standing protest against the idols of the market — an influ- 
ence that made, as Arnold would say, for artistic righteousness. In 
the minds of hundreds of young men, who never even saw him, there 
lurked a satisfaction that down at Chelsea a man was living, painting, 
and writing, without caring a brass farthing for anybody's opinion, 
for that is the one temper that produces good artistic work. The 
difficulties under which a young artist, be he painter or poet, 
labours, are so enormous, the circumstances of the age are so much 
against his profession, and the confusion of counsellors is so great, 
that unless he can close his ears, and possess his soul in patience, 
it is a thousand to one against his producing first-rate work. The 
comparative isolation of Rossetti's life did not produce his short- 
comings, though no doubt it narrowed his range of sympathies ; it 
was his persistent dwelling upon one idea, and the unfortunate 
coincidence which gave him models of a physical type which 
exactly fitted the artistic peculiarities of his temperament. The 
conjunction of these circumstances forced him into one groove of 
thought, and held him there like a vice ; and there are few things more 
pathetically evident about any modern painter, than the way in which 
he struggled, and struggled in vain, to free himself from the chain 
of feeling and thought which his own hands had bound round him. 

But his influence was scarcely the less for his personal short- 

91 



comings — they proved him human even to his simple enthusiastic 
disciples, and they were of the kind that bring pity rather than 
contempt, for they were as much the result of idiosyncrasy and 
misfortune, as of misconduct — from the first the man, with all his 
genius, could scarcely have been successful or happy in the ordinary 
way. 

What place in the history of art and literature his achieve- 
ments will eventually hold is difficult even to surmise, but one or 
two points may be confidently asserted. In the future, Rossetti will 
stand less as the painter -poet than as the leader of the great 
artistic movement of England in the nineteenth century; his 
work will be regarded and prized even more for what it effected, 
than for its intrinsic merit. As we get a little farther removed 
in time from the controversies which have raged round the 
modern schools of poetry and painting, it will be seen that his was 
the central figure of the combat, his hand raised the standard round 
which the foemen rallied. Two or three only of the poems are 
likely to survive the taste of the present day, and of these Jenny is 
far the most important, and will always stand as a statement, in 
singularly strong and beautiful words, of that problem of woman- 
hood, for which, as yet, no one has found a solution. The Last 
Confession is, perhaps, the most complete of all the poems, but it 
touches on no such universal chord as that with which Jenny is con- 
cerned, and is interesting chiefly as a study of morbid love and 
jealousy ; and all the other poems, beautiful as they are, will, we fear, 
be neglected in future years, if only because of their dependence 
upon a special phase of feeling which is not one with which most 
readers have any sympathy. They are not too egoistic to last, but 
they are egoistic in too unusual, too subtle a way, and the strange- 
ness of their form, natural as it was to the man who wrote them, will 
probably in after years make them appear half affected, and half 
incomprehensible. Perhaps the crowning misfortune for a poet, when 
his chances of immortality are being considered, is that men should 
read him less for what he says than for what may be called the atmo- 
sphere of his verse — when he pleases our senses without stirring our 
sympathies. This is to a certain extent the case with Rossetti. 
The young, the healthy, and the brave may delight in his writing 
for its music, and even find a half-pleasure in its iteration of grief. 
But it is impossible that they should sympathise with the work as a 
whole ; the cry of pain is too continuous, too long sustained, followed 
out into too many various directions. The thought comes across us 
as we read, that though the poet was sincere, his poetry is not ; that 
these fancies which, wherever they begin, end only in the grave, are 
not the realities of life and action, and have no true bearing thereon. 
And the doubt is apt to rise as to the reality of the sorrow we find 
so exquisitely expressed. The roughness, the impatience of great 

92 



grief are wholly lacking ; we might even suspect occasionally that in 
his own way the poet is enjoying his tragedies, is cherishing his 
tears. And the consequence is that one grows into a habit of listen- 
ing to him much as one does to the prattle of a child — glad when he 
says anything wise, tender, or beautiful* but attaching little or no 
importance to the thread of his discourse. 

The place of his painting is even harder to determine. Many 
artists would tell us that it is not painting at all, and from one point of 
view they would be right. But is this really the question ? Another 
age may deny that the modern French school are painters, or that 
there is any painting save that of Germany and the Low Countries ; 
or may erect some new standard, or return to some old one which 
is now forgotten. Who shall decide what is and what is not paint- 
ing, if we once leave the broad track of beautiful colour applied to a 
plane surface so as to produce a beautiful result ? And if the deci- 
sion can be made so as to exclude the work of which we are talking, 
we should have to consider whether, if this be not painting, it is not 
something else than painting which we require. This is at all events 
— Art. There is no doubt of that ; and the best examples possess 
three qualities, which it is excessively rare to find in combination. 
They are at once passionate, poetical, and refined, and defy the 
spectator to associate them with ideas of manufacture. Such as it 
is, the work has evidently grown from its author's character, like a 
flower from the earth, and bears scarcely a trace of another's influ- 
ence. The hope of immortality lies in this fact. Copies die, but 
for originals, however imperfect, there is always a chance. It is, I 
imagine, as unlikely that future generations will understand the 
meaning of their author, as that they will care to follow out his curious 
life and character ; but the qualities of imagination and passion, and 
the technical perfection of the colouring, will probably secure these 
works a place in the history of art. For as poems in colour, the 
world has seen nothing finer since the days of Titian. 

I would apologise to my readers for the desultory character of 
these notes, did I not feel, and feel most strongly, that the time has 
not yet come in which it is possible to estimate in any complete 
degree the scope and character of Dante Rossetti's work. Any 
endeavour to do so would inevitably trench upon personal matters, 
and give pain to many people. I have tried, probably with 
unsuccess, to steer a middle course, and to suggest the truth so far 
as this could be done without offence. And summing up that 
truth in a sentence, it comes to this — that Rossetti's was a true 
artistic genius, wedded to a nature which was almost equally 
passionate and intellectual, an Italian rather than an English 
character, and that though the circumstances of his life thwarted 

93 



his powers to an unusual extent, they did not alter in any essential 
respect the character of his work. Under no conceivable circum- 
stances, I think, would the man's genius have driven him straight 
and fast along any given road, and to a predetermined end : the 
seeds of contradiction were in himself as well as in his surroundings. 
His intellect and his senses were like two millstones, and would 
have ground each other to pieces had there been no interposing 
medium. In judging him we must not forget that he was an alien 
in race and more than an alien in character ; neither his virtues nor 
his vices were such as we display. We can at least thank him for 
this, that he broke with one fierce wrench the bonds of artistic con- 
vention, and taught English artists that they might dare to paint 
and write their thoughts and feelings without regard to prohibition, 
or convention. 



94 




X.— THE PAINTING OF 
HOLMAN HUNT. 



HAT is the prevailing characteristic, the leading 
" note," to use the art slang of to-day, in this painter's 
work ? Well, Hunt has been painting for nearly 
fifty years, and the main results of his life's work 
could be got into one small room. Given that the 
artist has been, as is notoriously the case, an in- 
defatigable worker during all this period, we can see by this how 
" thorough " has been his execution of each picture ; and thorough- 
ness is, indeed, the most vital quality of his painting. Artists of 
more spontaneous impulse we have amongst us, but for men who 
have carried out that impulse to a degree equal to Hunt, we may 
look in vain. Never, perhaps, in the history of art were there great 
pictures with which it was so easy to find fault, and which it was so 
impossible to disregard — pictures whose peculiarities irritated so 
many and yet interested all. It is the old story, if a man has any- 
thing to say he is always worth listening to, and this artist has much 
that he wants to tell us. Briefly, then, the key to Hunt's art is this 
thoroughness, this desire, and more than desire, this determination to 
get to the very heart of his subject — to its very heart of hearts. And 
this, too, is the reason why no one can pass his work by, and, perhaps, 
partially the reason why so many find it unsatisfactory. For the 
majority of people live in grooves of habit in their visual impressions, 
just as they do in their daily occupations. Accustomed to look but 
little at nature, and that little with languid, and for the most part, 
preoccupied interest, they accept unhesitatingly whatever rendering 
a painter gives them, so long as it is of the ordinary conventional 
kind ; but directly the groove is forsaken, they are forced either to 
acknowledge or defend their ignorance ; and what defence is so easy 
as to say oneself is right, and the painter is wrong. It is a hard 
saying, but the truth is always offensive, save to the true. People 
will put up, either in pictures or life, with almost anything that does 

95 



not come too closely home to them — does not force them to reconsider 
their conventionalities, either of sight or action. Does any thinking 
man in England — I ask this question in all seriousness — does any 
thinking man in England who knows Holman Hunt's work, doubt 
that he might have been a Royal Academician a dozen times over if 
he had only conformed ever so little to the conventional creed? 
Had he painted babies in white satin smocks, or old gentlemen in 
ruffs, or Venetian vagabonds, or Highland cattle, how gladly he 
would have been welcomed to the Academic ranks ; with what ease 
and security he might have gained a fortune and a baronetcy, and 
lived in a Kensington palace to the end of his days ! But fancy an 
Academy rewarding or honouring a man who has simply done his 
best for art, who has given every hour of his life to producing great 
pictures, and neglected to fill his pockets. 

Take, lest any one should think these only vague generalities, a little 
detail. A few years ago half artistic London was raving about the 
painting of the draperies of a picture by Mabuse, which was being 
exhibited at the " Old Masters." Now, in " The Shadow of the 
Cross," the blue robe of the Virgin is painted with a perfection which 
has all the character of clear, brilliant colour, reality, and complete- 
ness, of Mabuse's work on twenty times the scale, and possesses, 
moreover, what Mabuse's art did not possess, the qualities of denoting 
texture, while lending itself to the lines of the form beneath. Since 
these Flemish painters, no one has ever painted drapery at all till Mr. 
Hunt and Rossetti. Take another point — expression. Now, of all 
the merits of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, this merit of expression 
was perhaps the chief. Rossetti, Millais, and Hunt, all sought it, 
and all in different ways gained their end. But as Millais is un- 
doubtedly peculiarly celebrated in this respect, it is worth while to 
note the difference between the emotions (and their expression) of his 
men and women, and those of our present subject. The difference 
is, in the main, one of sentiment — sentiment as opposed to passion. 
A trick (I use the word in no contemptuous sense) of the eyes and 
mouth — a pleading expression — which throws the character, as it were, 
upon one's special protection, and which gives a peculiar softened 
beauty to the face which he depicts ; this is, briefly speaking, Millais' 
habitual way of exciting our interest. If we think of his most noted 
subject-pictures, from "The Huguenot" to the present day, we find this 
gentle, beautiful pathos always the main point. Sometimes we have 
it tinged with the sentiment of self-sacrifice, as in "The Huguenot"; 
sometimes with that of duty, as in " The Black Brunswicker " ; some- 
times with that of love and terror, as in "The Proscribed Royalist" ; 
sometimes with that of reflection, or appeal, or sadness, as the girl 
considering what her answer should be to her lover's letter, "Yes 
or No ?" the young wife asking her husband to "Trust Her" ; or 

96 



in the many girl-pictures in which, undet various fanciful titles, this 
artist has given us more of the dreaminess, the bearable sadness, and 
the unconscious pathos of childhood, than has teen set down else- 
where. A question, an appeal, a regret — is it not true that every 
Millais picture is expressive of one of these ? Speaking quite clearly, 
is it not true that it is emotion of the circulating-library kind which 
we have here, in which sentimentalism is chosen in place of passion, 
and in which love bears an undue relation to the other affairs of life ? 
Turn to Hunt's work and we see the difference at once ; the painter's 
mind is set in another key; the emotion does not interest him so 
long as it is unconnected with thought. The faces of his characters 
are rarely — we might almost say never — simply loving, trusting, or 
mournful ; they are instinct with complicated feelings — are in process 
of change from one emotion to another, even as the bodies of his 
characters are almost invariably in change from one action to another. 
For — and this, be it noted, is one of the vital differences between these 
great painters — Hunt is always successful in painting action, Millais 
in painting rest. 

Broadly speaking, we may say that the sentimental finds no place 
in Hunt's art ; love, with him, is too strong a passion, of too vital 
issues, to be treated lightly. Compare for the extremes of differ- 
ence such pictures as the famous " Light of the World " and the 
"Awakened Conscience." The first showing us a face, beautiful 
indeed, but even more powerful, beneficent and calm, in which kind- 
ness and irresistible authority are most wonderfully blended; the 
second, filled with jarring chords of emotion and perverted feeling, 
of shattered peace and ruined life. It is no exaggeration and no 
imaginative reading to say that from the man's face in the one picture 
and the other, there look out at us a god and a devil ; for, as I read 
it, the tragedy of the " Awakened Conscience " is hardly to be found 
so much in the woman's face, instinct though it be with sudden, awful 
remembrance of what she was and is, but in her companion's ghastly 
indifference to her feeling. It is absurd to attempt a precise descrip- 
tion of this picture when it has been once so finely given as by 
Ruskin, but I may, perhaps, be pardoned for pointing out one detail 
of real, if possibly unintentional significance, which our great writer 
has left unmentioned. In the large looking-glass, which forms a 
portion of the background to this composition, is reflected the window 
of the opposite side of the room, and through it a garden bright 
with sunshine and spring foliage. Against this, the reflection of the 
woman shows as it would actually do under such conditions of light 
— dark and almost shapeless, just as a blot upon the brightness. The 
moral is too evident to need pointing out. But, indeed, in this picture 
there are not one but a score of details which show the intense intel- 
lectual effort of the painter, as well as his emotional perception and 
power. 

o 97 



Let us turn to the " Light of the World," a picture which is, 
in some respects, a work apart from the rest. This is, if I may use 
the expression, one painted from within rather than from without. I 
find in every line the trace of an intense imaginative conception 
which is somewhat at variance with the usual effect given by the 
majority of Holman Hunt's works. Perhaps I shall make my 
meaning clear if I say that the keynote of this picture is unity, 
and of the others, diversity. We can imagine a spectator of the 
most opposed artistic creed saying, " If this be pre-Raphaelitism, I 
will become a convert to-morrow," for in this composition, varied 
and minute as is the detail, the central thought and figure entirely 
dominate the work. I doubt whether, out of every ten people who 
look at this picture, there are more than two or three who see any- 
thing clearly but the central figure ; nay, even to one who knows 
the composition well, it is difficult to recall the details ; the barred 
and ivy -bound door, the grass and brambles ; even the double 
crown and the white robe are lost, or rather, are only dimly felt, in 
comparison with the face of Christ. I have dwelt upon this subject, 
for it leads to the consideration of why this work is so much more 
popular than any other painting by this artist, and why so many 
people are intolerant of Mr. Holman Hunt's paintings. The reasons 
for the popularity and the power of this picture are (though it is 
rarely that the same cause accounts for both) the same. The " Light 
of the World " was painted under the stress of an intense religious 
conviction, the subject being, to use the artist's own significant word, 
" vouchsafed " to him. He believes firmly that subject, detail, and 
treatment were revealed to him for a distinct purpose, and in elaborate 
detail. Evidently a picture painted in such a manner will inevitably 
touch the heart more nearly than any purely intellectual work. 
Not only is the effect given to the work more powerful, but of 
a different kind ; it mounts into the region of feeling, and is inspired 
by a similar emotion to that of the subject ; and in a religious 
picture this is three-parts of the battle. 

Perhaps after the " Light of the World," the " Scapegoat " is the 
most widely known of all Mr. Hunt's scriptural subjects, and practi- 
cally this is a landscape picture. The goat, which gives the title to 
the work, though finely conceived and painted, and truly striking 
the intended note of suffering and isolation, is, after the first look at 
the subject, forgotten in the consideration of the gaunt, desolate land, 
with covering of crystallised salt, and bleaching skeletons, of the 
narrow strip of sea, drearily dark under the shadow of the surround- 
ing mountains, and above all of the peaks of the mountains, as they 
rise flushed with the scarlet and crimson of sunset, into that 
wonderful sky, which the artist seems to have painted with the actual 
gold and purple of Nature herself There is a good opportunity to 

98 



notice, with regard to this work, how infinitely the dreariness of the 
scene is increased by the two matters which ought, from a conven- 
tional point of view, to take some of it away — the presence of a living 
animal, and the presentation of the landscape under a flush of beauti- 
ful light. Under no grey sky, with no hint of human occupation to 
connect it with ourselves, could this end of the Dead Sea look so 
dreary as here. 

" Strayed Sheep " takes us to another side of the painter's art. 
The picture represents a kind of little glade of rocks, brambles, 
ferns, wild-flowers, etc., with the sheep in the immediate foreground ; 
in the distance we see the slopes of the downs and a bit of sea. The 
whole is in the most brilliant light, and every item of grass and 
flower, of the sheep's fleece, etc., is given with great elaboration and 
distinction. The remark which I should like to make first about 
this work is that the picture is peculiarly a happy one. Albeit 
in every respect pre-Raphaelite, the work is one of those which the 
people most opposed — as they think and say — to pre-Raphaelitism, 
nevertheless like. This, moreover, is a picture in which the artist 
seems for once not to have had any ulterior motive, but just to have 
gone down to a lonely place in lovely weather, and worked away 
happily, without too much thought. And, without dwelling further 
on the technical character, this brings us to the consideration of 
what is at the bottom of both Mr. Hunt's excellences and faults 
as an artist. Of his excellences, since it spurs him on to over- 
come difficulties which have seldom been grappled with, and to 
realise his subjects in utmost minutiae ; of his defects, since it 
prevents him from seeing the boundary between the possible and 
the impossible, the desirable and the undesirable. He wants paint- 
ing to do more than lies within its power, — to perform the office not 
only of Art, but of religion and literature. He is so anxious to have 
his meaning made clear to the utmost degree that he frequently 
forgets that the most subtle meanings are sometimes, and not seldom, 
those which vanish when they are too clearly brought forward. The 
consequence is that he is always treading a narrow boundary -line 
between the sublime and the ridiculous, for Art cannot be concocted 
of so many beautiful, and so many emblematical objects. A picture 
may be thought out till it is in description on paper a perfect demon- 
stration of its subject, and may nevertheless fail to convey its 
meaning as essentially as a rough sketch which has been drawn, so 
to speak, in molten thought from the crucible of the imagination. 
The rock upon which Mr. Hunt splits is, I venture to say, this — 
that he does not sufficiently remember that true pre-Raphaelitism 
does not insist equally upon every detail, but insists upon each 
detail in relative proportion to the importance. When I say the 
importance, I mean, of course, importance with regard to the chosen " 
subject. The gain to significance of the perfect rendering of all the 

99 



subordinate facts of a composition is right so long, and only so long, 
as no fraction of significance of the main subject is lost thereby ; 
directly the detail begins to encumber the meaning, directly it does 
not fulfil a definite function in the realisation of the scene, the detail 
is wrong. For a picture is not a treatise upon a subject, but a 
rendering of a scene, a thought, or a feeling, and we cannot follow 
out in it many complicated lines of thought ; what it really teaches, 
must be taught through one comparatively simple idea. 

I shall not describe here "The Finding of our Saviour in the 
Temple ; " the picture has been exhibited so widely throughout 
England, and is well known by both engraving and description. 
Suffice it to say that this is the most elaborate of Hunt's religious 
works, the most brilliant in colour and most painstaking in work. 
Nor shall I speak of the dark maiden standing against a gorgeous 
Egyptian sunset, entitled " The After-Glow," which was exhibited at 
the Grosvenor Gallery. A few words, however, must be given to 
the most quiet and perhaps the most poetic of all Hunt's scenes 
of modern life, " The Ship," which bears a motto from the poem 
In Memoriam, commencing — 

" Fair ship, that from the Italian shore. 

With my lost Arthur's loved remains, 
Sailest the placid ocean-plains. 
Spread thy full wings, and w^t him o'er." 

This shows us the deck of a P. and O. steamer at night, with a 
sailor at the wheel, a Lascar bending down to the saloon skylight 
to talk to some one within, an old Anglo-Indian soldier with a white 
puggaree round his wide-awake, a woman leaning her arm upon the 
bulwarks and looking out into the night, — these are all the actors in 
the scene ; and it is worthy of notice how entirely Hunt has suc- 
ceeded in presenting them to us quite clearly and plainly, and yet 
carefully avoided concentrating our attention upon any or all of them. 
The passage of the ship through the night is the subject of this 
picture, and the clearness with which the artist has realised this 
scene, and given us its very essence is hardly to be overpraised. It 
was the fashion when this work was first exhibited at the Grosvenor 
Gallery to run it down, and call it ordinary and conventional ; but 
time will remedy that, and people are beginning to pee, though 
slowly, that there is more true imagination in realising the essence 
of a contemporary subject, than in reproducing the outside form of 
an antique life ; that we had better have true pictures of what is 
nearest to us in feeling, thought, and action, than false ones of what 
lies far behind, and is made beautiful, as are the shadows of the hills, 
by remoteness only. 

One other picture only shall be quoted here, and of this I will give 
my impression written when the work was first exhibited in August, 

lOO 



1885. It may be that I have exaggerated in recording the pleasure 
I received from this work ; but I have not since seen the picture and 
prefer therefore to leave the estimate untouched. 

" Mr. Holman Hunt's great picture of ' The Triumph of the In- 
nocents ' is at last finished, and is now being exhibited in Bond 
Street, at the Fine Art Society's Rooms, A work which has 
taken more than seven years to conceive and execute, has at 
least one title to consideration which is wanting to most of the 
hurried art of modern days, and seems almost to belong to 
^ those earlier times when pictures were painted in honour of the 
Deity or praise of the King, and intended to be lasting monuments 
of all that one man's skill could produce to glorify his religion 
or exalt his patron. We live so fast nowadays, that to hear that 
a painter in the midst of us has spent so long over a single 
picture gives us something of a shock ; it appears to be an 
anachronism, like Gordon's refusal of money - rewards for 
' simply doing his duty.' Nevertheless, in the centre of Bond 
Street, with Mr. GulHck's 'great mirror picture' on one 
hand, and Mr. Van Beers' cocottes on the other, here hangs 
' The Triumph of the Innocents,' attracting what notice it may 
from the English public. Descriptions of pictures are futile 
things at best, for no words that were ever coined can describe 
the simplest piece of fine colour or fine form so as to realise it 
for their reader ; and all that can be rightly conveyed is what 
may be called the literary quality of the painting — the emotional 
effect which its tints and shapes produce upon the mind. The 
time is towards dawn : the scene, a long plain, bounded in the 
distance with low mountains, amongst which watch-fires are 
burning ; near the foreground some great trees break the 
monotony of the fields, and stretch a net-work of foliage and 
branches across the sky. In the foreground of the picture, 
Joseph is leading the mule bearing the Virgin and Saviour, 
and surrounding, following, and preceding him are a band of 
spirit-children strewing the way with flowers, and accompany- 
ing and protecting the pilgrims to Egypt. The scene is 
painted under a double light — that of the natural scene and 
that proceeding from the children. These, who represent the 
spirits of the martyred innocents, are surrounded by haloes of 
vivid colour, and tread upon prismatic bubbles. Such are the 
bald facts of the design. The idea, it will be allowed, is a 
singularly fine and significant one ; if ever art mystic has an 
excuse, it is in the treatment of such a subject as this ; and it 
would hardly have been possible to introduce supernatural 
element into a picture with a more beautiful intention. It 
should be noticed, in passing, that the children who accompany 

lOI 



the flight of Joseph and Mary are supposed, in Mr. Hunt's 
picture, to be invisible to them, and only seen by the infant 
Saviour, who is leaning down towards one of them, laughing. 

"It seems to the present writer that a work of this kind presents 
several distinct problems to the critic and the picture-lover, 
each of which deserves to be dealt with separately before the 
work can be estimated as a whole. First comes the question 
of whether the picture is technically so fine as to be worthy of 
serious consideration ; then whether the painter has so told his 
story as to justify his interpretation of the subject and his 
departure from traditional renderings ; and, lastly, one has to 
decide whether, with regard to both technical and emotional 
characteristics, the painting is of such quality as to take rank as 
a great religious picture — a picture, that is, which treats worthily 
the greatest tradition of our race. 

" First, with regard to its technical qualities. I am not going to tell 
here the history, now well known, of the original picture, its 
vicissitudes from the time when it was begun in Jerusalem, upon 
a piece of Syrian linen bought in the bazaar, to its final abandon- 
ment a year or two ago. Suffice it to say that the present work 
is not the one that was first commenced, and which the present 
writer saw two or three times in course of painting. It is, upon 
the whole, very much finer, though it has possibly lost a little of 
the freshness which an original conception possesses ; with regard 
to its technique, it possesses all Mr. Hunt's peculiarities, both of 
excellence and defect, though, owing to the peculiarity of the 
subject, the deficiencies are, in my opinion, less noticeable than 
usual. The excessive brilliancy and variety of the tints which 
this artist habitually uses in his flesh-painting, and the absence 
therefrom of any harmonising influence of atmosphere, is less 
felt when all the bright faces are, as they are here, seen under 
the influence of a supernatural light. Again, one of Mr. Hunt's 
chief technical peculiarities is a certain hard veracity of detail, 
which, as it were, forces truth down one's throat at the sword's 
point. In the present picture, owing to the subdued light in 
which all the natural details and the principal figures are painted, 
this veracity is kept within tolerable limits. We do not feel, as 
many of us felt in the same painter's picture of ' The Shadow of 
the Cross,' as if the whole conception was full of some minor 
detail, such as the shavings. There was a kind of realism about 
many of Mr. Hunt's earlier pictures which sometimes drifted 
perilously near to burlesque, and was only saved by the painter's 
evident sincerity and earnestness. With regard to the colour of 
the present picture, there will no doubt be very different opinions; 

102 



as we have said, the flesh-tints of the children have that extreme 
brilliant crudity, and show that tendency to see purples and 
greens and yellows and pinks in little patches such as all Mr. 
Hunt's earlier work has shown — most noticeable of all, perhaps, 
in his portraits of his son and daughter, exhibited some time ago 
at the Grosvenor Gallery. 

" The landscape portion, however, and the principal figures, are very 
fine in colour — deep, yet glowing, as the finest colour always 
must be, with no tendency to blackness, and yet with the most 
perfect harmony of the tints employed, giving a result of truth 
to nature, both in the mystery and the beauty of an Eastern 
night, such as the present writer at least has never seen sur- 
passed. The great difficulty in pictures on this subject has 
always been the face of the Virgin ; and in the present case, 
it is doubtful how far Mr. Hunt has been successful. He has 
chosen to represent her as rather an older, more careworn woman 
than is customary ; and perhaps in avoiding the ' plum-box ' 
style of beauty he has run into the opposite extreme. The 
Joseph is a magnificent piece of drawing. Probably, from an 
artist's point of view, the best thing in the picture is the move- 
ment of his body as he leads the mule forward, while his head 
turns for an instant to mark the watch-fires which are burning 
behind the fugitives. The painting of the picture, as opposed 
to its drawing and colour, varies in no essential degree from 
the artist's previous work. It is careful in the extreme, laboured, 
and, to use a studio word, ' tight.' From the point of view of 
brush-work it has few merits, there is no hint of mystery in its 
procedure, it is unlike anything but itself. Perhaps some notion 
of its peculiarity may be gained by comparing it rather to a 
mosaic than a painting. It seems to be done painfully, bit by 
bit, and worked over till all trace of its process is removed. It 
would be true to say that it is the absolute negative of all the 
French theories of painting ; indeed, this is true of more than 
the brush-work of the picture. A great deal more might be 
said upon this question, but probably our readers would scarcely 
care to follow out technical details further, and we shall confine 
ourselves to noting that, as a piece of composition, this is the 
finest of Mr. Hunt's works ; and the figures, both real and super- 
natural, are combined in a very beautiful wavy line, which aids 
the desired sense of movement very materially. 

" As to the question whether the painter has so told his story as to 
justify this interpretation, we should answer it in the affirma- 
tive, and for this reason. When an artist deals with a well- 
worn theme, there are only two courses — successful courses — 

103 



open to him. One is, to treat it as all other men have done, 
and to rely upon his transcendent power to make the ordinary, 
unusually fine; the other, to select some new interpretation 
which, by its ingenuity or beauty, will throw new light upon the 
subject, or invest it with fresh attraction. Mr. Hunt has 
chosen the latter, and has undoubtedly succeeded in rousing 
great interest, and instituting a fresh conception of his subject. 
His idea is a beautiful one in itself, and is thoroughly carried out 
to the very utmost of the painter's ability. One sees this at once 
on looking at the picture. This is a true man's work — beautiful, 
imperfect, struggling, failing, and succeeding in various ways and 
proportions ; but certainly there is in it that firm impress of a 
human soul, that tendency to struggle towards the light, which 
makes nearly all sincere effort beautiful, despite its partial failure. 
Just think of what a different state English art would have been 
in, if in the last hundred years or so we had had only ten pictures 
a year such as this instead of ten thousand such as we have 
had ! For every picture painted in this way, with the utmost 
of the artist's strength and the keenest of the artist's emotions, 
results in a definite gain to the world. It is literally true that 
it is only art produced in this temper which is great for all time. 
To have within the frame of a canvas or on the marble of a 
statue all the power and all the feeling which one man had to 
give— this is what a great piece of art means, this is why many 
pictures and statues of early times touch us more keenly in their 
incompleteness than others in their perfection. In the best 
sense of the words, therefore, we think that, many defects not- 
withstanding, this is a great religious picture. It is great in its 
actual definite achievement, its fine colour, its mastery of natural 
fact, its successful presentation of its subject, its originality of 
conception, its vigorous drawing, and in the patient, unwearied 
skill and thought which are evident in every line and every hue. 
It is great, because it is the record of a man's endurance in 
high aims, and his conquest over numberless difficulties ; it is 
great because it is not produced from devotion to the idols of 
the market, nor in deference to popular fashions. And it is 
religious, not only in the consecration of its subject, but because 
its artist has given every power of his mind and body to do it 
justice, and because every line of its canvas owes its loveliness, 
not only to the painter's skill, but to his fidelity to Nature, man, 
and God." 

ADDENDA TO THE 

PAINTINGS OF HOLMAN HUNT. 

The names and dates of both Millais' and Rossetti's principal 

104 









-' '^^■Lji£^ '^ 




works are well known, and complete lists of them exist in various 
Memoirs and Critical Essays, but so far as I know there is no such 
record of Holnian Hunt's work. The following list does not profess 
to be exhaustive, but it, I believe, includes the more important 
examples of the painter : the dates (where given) are only approxi- 
mate, _ and chiefly refer to the year in which the picture was first 
exhibited — 



I. Dr. Rochecliffe at Woodstock (about) 
II. Flight of Madeline and Porphyro 

III. Rienzi 
1 1 1 A. Portrait of Dante G. Rossetti 

IV. Claudio and Isabella 
V. The Christian Missionary 

VI. Valentine and Sylvia 
VII. The Hireling Shepherd 
VIII, Strayed Sheep 

IX. The Light of the World 
X. The Awakened Conscience 
XI. The Scapegoat 
XII. The Finding of our Saviour in the Temple 
XII I. London Bridge on the Night of the Marriage of the 
Prince of Wales ..... 
XIV. The After-Glow in Egypt .... 

XV. The Shadow of Death 

XVI. Isabella and the Pot of Basil 

r An Italian Child ^ 

XVII. <^ Street Scene near Cairo > (exhibited) 

LThe Plains of Esdraelon J 

XVI Ia. Holman Hunt's Son .... 1880 

XVIII. The Triumph of the Innocents . . 1878-1885 

XVI 1 1 A. Portrait of Professor Owen . . . . 1886 

XIX. May Day on Magdalen Tower . . . 1890 

The water-colours and drawings in pencil and ink are too numerous 
to mention here. Most of the former were exhibited at the Old 
Water-Colour Society between the years 1865 and 1885. Mr. 
Hunt rarely paints in water-colour now. Replicas or finished 
studies, mostly small, have been made by the artist of " The Scape- 
goat," "The Light of the World," "The Finding of our Saviour," 
and " The Triumph of the Innocents," and, I think, of " The After- 
Glow." The " Strayed Sheep " was begun as a replica of a portion 
of " The Hireling Shepherd." A very beautiful drawing of " The 
Lady of Shalott" was contributed by Hunt to the illustrated Tennyson 
published by Moxon, to which Rossetti and Millais also contributed. 



1847 
1848 
1849 
1850 
1850 
1850 
1851 
1852 
1852 
1854 
1854 
1856 
i860 

. 1862 
. 1868 
1869-73 



1877 



105 




CCELEBS AT HOME. 

Happily, we all shoot at the moon with ineffectual arrows. . . . O toiling hands of mortals ! 
O unwearied feet, travelling ye know not whither ! Soon, soon it appears to you, you must 
come forth on some conspicuous hill-top, and but a little way farther, against the setting sun, 
descry the spires of El Dorado. Little do ye know your own blessedness ; for to travel 
hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour. 

Virginibus Puerisque : R. Louis STEVENSON. 

Do I view this world as a vale of tears ? 

Nay, reverend sir, not I. — Robert Browning. 

O begin is to end ; every fresh start is in one sense 
a Jlnis, and ere the new things can be experienced, 
the new countries seen, the new friends tried and 
approved, there must come a change in the ancient 
fashion ; a farewell to well-known scenes ; and to all 
who helped, or hindered, as in the old days of joy 
and sorrow. We must say good-bye or ever we can start on the paths 
wherein we shall see their faces and touch their hands no more. 
The adventure must needs be a perilous one ; we are for ever 
enacting the old story of Pizarro, and as we plunge forward into the 
heart of an unknown country, the sky behind is red with the flame of 
our burning ships, and of that cargo of memories, associations, 
friendships, and perhaps dearer things still, in which was once all our 
interest and all our joy. 

Few people realise till comparatively late in age how difficult to 
fashion is even the smallest niche for a human life ; a niche which shall 
provide some circle of sympathy and companionship beside the actual 
provision of physical necessities, of food, shelter, and clothing. In 
our hot youth especially we know naught of this : we rush gladly to 
the most distant and alien lands ; we fling our loves and our friends 
this way and that with a fine flourish of generosity, and cry Omne 
solum forti patria, whilst fond hearts are troubling for our fortunes, 
and fond eyes are hidden in tears lest they should see us go. I 
often think that it is not wisdom which is so lacking to the young, 
but feeling ; they are, for the most part, wise enough to enjoy ; and 

1 06 




SWELTl-lliARI-S. - E. K. Jniixsux 



what better wisdom does age bring to them ? But how rarely are 
they wise enough to feel ! and in the after-days, when we look up as 
from our lesson-books, and see around us the relics of the passion 
and the enterprise of youth, trying to realise what the years have 
brought and what taken away, and the balance of joy or suffering 
which remains to make life worth the living, our sharpest grief is apt 
to be experienced not at those unavoidable, unspeakable losses, which 
the death of a loved, or the dishonour of a trusted one has brought, 
but at the memory of the hours when our hearts failed to estimate 
the due worth of the affection given, or the trust reposed in us, and 
we swaggered carelessly along the highway of life, laughing alike at 
friend and foe. 

Probably the bachelors have more of these old memories than 
perplex our Benedictine brethren. We at least have not that com- 
fortable, consoling consciousness of civic virtue which seems to 
invest as with a halo of sanctity even the sorriest specimen of a 
lawfully-wedded man. Unable to give hostages to fortune, we must 
pay in our own persons the required ransom, and memory probably 
exacts a fuller tribute from those whose habit of life does not draw 
its emotional sustenance from the tranquil joy^, interests, and duties 
of the holy estate of matrimony. 

This much is at least certain, that if we may judge from physical 
surroundings, the bachelors have the longest memories, the most 
tenacious affections. Inanimate things play a greater part in their 
lives — at all events in their lives within doors ; and while you may 
enter a dozen well-to-do family houses, wherein from dining-room to 
the connubial chamber itself, all upon which the eye rests is barren 
of association alike to yourself and the happy couple, we rarely find 
ourselves in the uncared-for rooms of Ccelebs without meeting at 
every turn with evidence that the poor fellow's life, perhaps because 
deprived of more material joys and comforts, clings with persistent, 
if somewhat unreasoning, fondness to such waifs and strays as 
recall to him the past. 

Looking round his chambers thus is not alone the privilege of the 
happily-married friend, the anxious elder sister. Oftentimes Ccelebs 
takes the inspection into his own hands, and while the shadows darken 
over the old Inn gardens, and the firelight capriciously brightens 
first one and then another of his dusty, worthless household gods, his 
thoughts and fancies follow fondly the shifting flame, touching into 
the prominence of feeling the incidents and memories of the past. 
Such a retrospect is rarely, I think, even to the most unfortunate, 
wholly painful. Recollections of kindness and pity are hinted at here 
and there, traces of past joys, no matter how momentary in their real 

107 



endurance, linger round each cheap picture, each old-fashioned 
ornament or shabby /^zy^^r, and some record of past achievement, 
were it only the achievement of sacrifice, avails to soften the bitterness 
of long defeat. Nor for the objects with which no interests of vital 
nature have been bound up by that encyclopaedist, Circumstance, is 
there wanting the quieter pleasure of memory ; and as our faithful 
eyes turn from one to another oddly-juxtaposed possession, we live 
once more the full life of earlier days. We hear once more the line 
whistle above our heads, and the whir of the wheel in the fresh 
morning by the river when we caught our first salmon, and remember 
the almost incredulous delight of that successful shot, and the very 
thump with which our first bird struck the earth ! 

Here are our billiard cues, our racquets, the portrait of our first 
sweetheart — perhaps of our last ; here the prizes we have won at 
school or college, the photograph of our first picture, the proofs of 
our first book. Here the memorials of old friends which say nothing 
to any hearts but our own ; here the implements of our craft, what- 
ever it may be, ready to our hand — thanks to the absence of the 
cleanly but irritating housemaid. Here, in short, there are, for the 
eyes which can read them aright, the little records of Coelebs' life, 
where all upon which his eye rests has to him a significance, and is 
entwined with a memory. 

One such bachelor dwelling- room rises before me as I write, 
wherein is nothing splendid, nothing specially valuable or curious, 
and yet which possesses in my eyes an interest beyond any that could 
be given by wealth or rarity. Some dark pictures, one or two with 
dusky golden backgrounds, by unknown painters of the early Italian 
school, hang upon the panelled walls ; a few faded photographs stand 
amidst a chaos of books and papers upon a great writing-table near 
the window ; a score of curios, from as mginy different lands, lie 
about on bookcase or table, or are fastened untidily upon the 
panelling. The bookcase is full, nay, bursting with books, papers, 
and MSS. of the most heterogeneous kind ; the furniture is shabby 
and — comfortable ; a brown velveteen coat hangs by the door ; an 
atmosphere of ancient smoke and very modern dust fills the chamber ; 
beneath the window is a green lawn, with ragged children playing 
under the big elm-trees whose leaves rustle against the casement. 
This little dwelling-place is high up, one of a score of such in an old 
Inn of Court, and is approached by a grimy staircase which, nobody 
having a special obligation to clean, never is cleaned, save when once 
or twice a year the Inn has a fit of housekeeping, and appears in the 
person of a contracting builder with a broom, a pail of whitewash, 
and a pot of peculiarly offensive brown paint, the only colour supposed 
to be known to the Benchers. Below, is a most respectable firm of 
solicitors ; above, I suspect, a somewhat less respectable married 

1 08 



couple, the female member of which is at present steadfastly 
endeavouring to play " God save the Queen " with one finger on a 
worn-out piano. How the notes come lumbering painfully along! 
•' God — save — our — gra — shus Queen ! " That means that the time is 
past office hours, and the respectable firm of solicitors has closed 
business for the night. Ah! I thought so. The children are 
trooping away noisily to their teas, the old lame porter, who also acts 
as janitor of the gardens, hurrying up the last of them with his stick. 
Closing-time has come, and the warm summer night is stealing 
downwards through that reddish-orange mist which is the best we 
Londoners know of sunset. The country must be fair this evening, 
the flowers scentful in the warm still air ! The sailors are lounging on 
the quays ; the maids hurrying up the steep paths of the down, or 
along the lanes till they meet with their sweethearts ; there is tennis 
in pleasant gardens ; but as the dusk grows apace the racquets are 
cast down, and the antagonists saunter away beneath the trees (where 
the game stands at love-all), while the old people, mindful of the dew, 
and not wholly unmindful of the days when the dew was forgotten, 
turn with a half-sigh towards the house. Down the river comes a 
boat, the sculler scarcely breaking the still surface of the stream, so 
lazily he pulls. In the stern sits, let us say, his sister, her hand 
falling idly in the water, which ripples therefrom in long lines to right 
and left. There is a broken-down old barge left amongst the reeds 
by the bank. What are they saying, this brother and sister ? That 
it would be well to sit there and watch the moon rise .■* Quick, let 
us come away lest we spoil the effect. After all, they may have 
other matters than the moon to talk of 

Yes, these summer evenings are sweet to the lads and lasses in 
the country now as they once were to us, and as sweet in town, in 
the City streets, and squares, and courts where, forgetful of the rattle 
of the traffic, the calling of the newsboys, the lovers meet, and 
meeting tell, in words or silence, their old-new story. Despite 
all his philosophy, an old bachelor is apt to feel a little lonely as he 
sits in his rooms alone, and looks back upon that far countrie, far 
and fair, in which he once travelled so hopefully. Especially in 
summer-holiday time, when all the world goes an-Augusting, if not 
a- Maying, will the aspect of his loneliness become vivid, and he will 
turn for consolation, as I turn to-day, to those waifs and strays 
which he has gathered through the past years from the wreck of 
many a passion, ambition, faith, and enterprise. For as the years go 
on all of us who are not spiritually bankrupt, turn more frequently 
from the contemplation of the present, and the future, to the niemory 
' of the past. As the road before us shortens, the fair perspectives of 
the dead years lengthen, and shine with a gentler radiance, for, towards 
sundown, we all wend eastwards and see but a reflected light. 

109 



Even for those exceptionally happy persons, the very-much-married 
men, whose interests for the future are multiplied by the presence of 
a numerous and exigent offspring, there must come moments, not of 
regret — forbid it, Hymen ! — but of tolerant remembrance of some 
youthful moments which would hardly be strictly in unison with their 
present irreproachable domestic felicity, and which they would 
scarcely care to discuss with Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi. For 
myself, I am free to confess that, speaking as an erring and errant 
man, as yet unbound in the sheaves of wedlock, I find my memory- 
pleasures less remunerative with regard to the many occasions on 
which I behaved with unblemished and immaculate propriety, than 
when I consider those upon which my Mrs. Grundean friends' 
relatives shook their heads with reprobation. 

The hot fit and the cold fit of love ; the recklessness, failure, and 
success of unconventional action ; the days when I did not work, but 
lay fooling under the trees with pipe or sweetheart; the answer 
which did certainly not turn away wrath ; the hours after midnight 
which were not in bed ; the hours at midday which — were ; the 
suppers, not of lentils, and the liquids, which both cheered and 
inebriated ; the first dash at Monte Carlo, and that beastly day when 
I saw Stirling beaten by a short head at Newmarket ; and quaint 
experiences in China and Japan, Egypt and India, which I hoped, 
and certainly ought, to have long since forgotten : these are the 
memories of which the guardians stand beside my chair whilst I 
smoke the pipe of contemplation. After all they were not very hurt- 
ful save to their owner, these blind loves, aimless wanderings, wasted 
hours, and occasional frailties ; and if I recall the least estimable of 
them with great satisfaction, no doubt the reason is because I have 
not yet reached that perfect state of life in which cakes and ale have 
entirely lost their attractiveness. At all events, once more, all friends 
and brother-sinners, let us look back at the eventful days ! 

Come, dearest friend of my youth, whose love-affairs were only 
less dear to me than my own, and who now are soldiering, with 
more or less ineffectiveness, amongst pig-tailed Chinamen, and you, 
old college chum, the best and least expansive of friends, who to- 
day teach something of the mysteries of conveyancing to Melbourne 
litigants, and even you, gentle counsellor of my early manhood, 
whose bright spirit deserved a better fate than the dull, but gentle- 
manly husband and ineffective progeny whom providence assigned 
you. Come, one or all of you, this evening to these lonely rooms, 
and bear me company. Let us chat together once more in spirit, 
as we shall never do in life, and look forth from the safe harbour 
of age, over those restless seas, long withdrawn, the thunder of 
whose surf is still sounding in ouir ears. 

no 



You too, fellow-bachelors, bound only to me by the tie of a common 
misfortune — you, too, shall be welcome here to-night, and shall hear 
your own stories told, with but little difference, in listening to ours. 
For your experience or mine, or Jones's round the corner, what 
matters it ? Are not the essentials of all experience and life much 
the same, though the accidents vary eternally ? 

What is it our most picturesque historian said in that book of 
which he is now so needlessly ashamed ? A full-bounding exultant 
youth, a strong vigorous manhood, a decline which refuses to believe it 
IS a decline, and a deathbed made beautiful by the abiding love of a 
few true-hearted friends^ such is the eternal course of nature through 
the history of men, of nations, of creeds. Or, to strike a somewhat 
different note, hear the view upon this question of the most genial 
philosopher of to-day. " Childhood must pass away, and then youth, 
as surely as age approaches. The true wisdom is to be always 
seasonable, and to change with a good grace in changing circum- 
stances. To love playthings well as a child, to lead an adventurous 
and honourable youth, and to settle when the time arrives into a 
green and smiling age, is to be a good artist in life and deserve well 
of yourself and your neighbour." It is even so, you have reasoned 
well, O pleasantest of special pleaders, who, true to your own idling 
and adventurous theories, are -now loitering on your yacht's careless 
wings amidst the islands of the Southern Sea. We must be young 
before we can be old, and the younger we have been, all the preachers 
notwithstanding, the more fruitful will be our age. The follies and 
even the peccadilloes of youth are but as the little green buds which 
drop from the apple-trees in such profusion in an abundant year — 
signs of the rich growth within, and their fall does but leave the way 
clear for the future, and finer, fruit. Hundreds if not thousands of 
these immature frailties the new brooms of experience must sweep 
away into memory's dust-bin ; we forget alike the joy and sorrow of 
the years. Yet, they have had their use in making us what we are. 
Here and there still, however, certain events stand out capriciously, 
and of these our first love is apt to be the chief. 

How well I remember her! She was good-natured, tall, and 
fair, with a rosy colour and the promise of a nutcracker chin, and 
she spoke with a sharp snapping accent, which reduced all her 
words as it were to the lowest common denominator, and gave no 
quarter to redundant syllables. And it is horrible to think how 
conventional it sounds — she was five -and -twenty, and I fifteen. 
She — even at this distance of time I have not the heart to call her 

^ For this, and all other possibly incorrect quotations, kind readers, pardon ! these proofs 
have come to me staying in a village by the western sea, where the nearest approach to 
the Nemesis of Life is the local paper. — Calebs. 

Ill 



by a false name — was one of a large family of girls who lived with 
their father in a dull old-fashioned house with a large garden, in a 
western suburb of London. The mother had even then been dead 
for some years, and the father, who was a man of peculiar ideas, 
used to train his dogs and his children with the same severity. 
Perhaps he was making fun of me, but I believe it was in all 
seriousness that he showed me a bundle of canes in a corner of the 
dining-room, and explained that it was with those that he — but no, 
the recollection is too painful ! I looked at the little dried -up 
chip of a man, with his eyes twinkling maliciously, and thought of 
an overruling providence. Anyhow, the girls were in deadly awe 
of the little old gentleman, and used to scurry out of his presence 
into the garden as soon as possible after dinner. There in that 
garden I told my love, under an elm-tree. I had induced her to 
sit down — she was much taller than I — and there, borrowing her 
parasol, I wrote in the dust : I love you ! I remember thinking with 
some pride that evening, at my private tutor's, of the ingenuity 
of this declaration. For previous attempts had been made to get 
this important confession out, and it wouldn't come. The parasol, 
deus ex mackind, settled it ; she only laughed and blushed, but I 
thought she was profoundly moved, and soon after, hugely content 
with myself, I went back to my tutor's. Thence on every possible 
occasion I would make my way to my sweetheart's house — it was 
early autumn, I remember, and the train and a fourpenny 'bus were 
the humble conveyances which my financial condition rendered 

advisable — and then I would ask if Miss was at home, and be 

ushered into the drawing-room solemnly — a horrible room, though 
I did not think so then, with heavy early Georgian furniture, large 
and execrable oil-pictures, and plenty of tapestry-woolwork, Dresden 
china and skeleton leaves, and white and green ivory chessmen 
under glass shades, etc. And then she would float in, smiling 
divinely — she always floated and smiled, and had generally an 
appearance as if some strong unseen wind. Zephyr, of course, was 
blowing her curls and ribbons, about ; a jealous friend I remember 
alluded to her once in my hearing as seven-stringed Jack, a low and 
opprobrious title which was washed out in blood — from his nose. 
But this by the way. In she would come, and I would sit on the 
edge of my chair, and make desperate efforts to inveigle her into 
the garden, feeling there always much more at my ease, partly 
because of my elm -tree triumph. After some delay, she would 
generally come, and there, behind one of the forcing-pits, I on a 
halcyon afternoon kissed her solemnly, and felt that she was mine. 
Oh, the bliss of that first kiss ! I wonder now what she thought of 
it all, I was tremendously in earnest, and used to quote poetry, 
and write letters a yard long, and generally must have made a 
gorgeous and amusing ass of myself. About this period I bought 

112 



her a ring, and haying once kissed her, made a point of keeping up 
the practice — I recollect thinking with surprise how easy a thing is 
when you've done it once. Nothing, however, in this world is 
perfect, and this memory is darkened by two horrible incidents 
which occurred towards the close of our engagement. After one of 
those innocent debauches amongst the forcing-pits above mentioned, 
I was asked to stay dinner — I always made a point of staying if I 
could — but this time I was invited formally, and regretted it. For 
old Mr. — Jones, let me call him — whether by thoughtlessness or 
wishing to be well rid of me, made me as gloriously tipsy as a boy 
of fifteen could very well be. I drank whatever was put before me, 
and trying to remember afterwards what it had been, recollected 
sherry and champagne and beer, and a peculiarly old and fruity 
port, upon which Jones especially prided himself, and which he 
always insisted on having decanted by his eldest daughter. Fired 
by these generous liquids I overstayed my time, and the 'bus which 
left at 10.45 '^S'd started when I reached the inn. Of course I had 
no money, and — worse — far worse — the air had revealed to me that 
I was remarkably unsteady upon my legs. Taking both sides of the 
road at once, somehow I got back to the house, and mysteriously 
borrowed five shillings of the butler, who I thought regarded rhe 
with criticism not unmingled with approval — with which I took a 
cab, and just caught the last train. I was not well — not at all well 
— in the cab, and the cabman was — not polit* — but I was much too 
far gone to care for that. Being, however, a few minutes too soon 
for the last train, I walked up and down, up and down the platform, 
trying after the straight line. At last I reached my destination — 
my tutor's house was black, the gate locked, and I rang despair- 
ingly. After some minutes a noise — the door was first half-opened 
on the chain, then entirely, and my tutor's wife, in all the simplicity 
of her night garments, and with her always awful politeness in full 
working order, wished me good evening. Good evening ! O the 
irony of those simple words ! I dared not speak ; I dared not stay. 
Like a guilty thing — the phraseology is conventional but appro- 
priate — I fled to my cubicle, and there slowly and sadly I laid me 
down without further ceremony of undressing, and there in the 
morning, a prey alike to love and liquor, my companions found me 
asleep — in my boots ! 

An awful incident, is it not? degrading in its foolishness and 
error ; and yet when I think of those rides on the omnibus, those 
autumn walks of ours in the garden, those kisses behind the forcing- 
pit — ^What say you, my invisible friends, were such things not good 
as a relief to propria ques maribus, and that exuberant horse who was 
for ever careering through green fields ? 

The end was not far off. She came to stop with us. I thought 
Q 113 



her demeanour a little constrained, but did not suspect the awful 
truth for some days. Then — one evening by the fire when my 
sister left the room — she told me. Of course the old story. I think 
I could have borne it if he had not had whiskers ! (People loved 
whiskers in those days, and men were openly proud of them!) 
Those whiskers sat heavy on my heart, they were bushy and strong ; 
he was — no matter. I wrote her a letter — of burning sarcasm : I 
trusted — the usual thing : I promised in the when other lips and 
other hearts -style that I would shield and defend her ever, and so 
we parted ; and the little ring — oh, bathos ! — was sent back to my 
sister, who put it in a drawer and lost it. I fancy one of the 
chambermaids had a hand in that loss ! And the worst of it was 
that She never wanted shielding or defending at all. He didn't 
turn out to be a brute, or anything but a very good fellow. They 
live still placidly and happily enough, with plenty of olive-branches 
and money; he is bald and grey, and she — stout. And she still 
snaps her syllables as of old, but the Venus air has somehow 
departed. I wonder if she ever thinks of the boy-lover she treated 
so — was it badly ? No, I think it was kindly. She was good to 
me, and let me dream. I believe in her heart she liked me well 
enough ; but this is a practical age, and, as an old servant said to me 
about this time, "A woman of five-and-twenty and a boy of fifteen, 
why, it's ridiklus — that's what it is ! " 

Let us leave such old-world memories, remembering that this is 
holiday time, when all the world is rushing forwards. Cook juvante, 
to sea or mountain, casino or bath, or where the foreign papa plays 
tambourine and shuttle-balP on the Digue with shrill cries of 
pleasure. We, too, have travelled in our time, witness those 
Australian boomerangs which we never learned to throw, and those 
lumps of coral from the Fijis, which we spent many a long morning 
at sea trying to polish. Here, too, is a relic of the vagabond days, 
an anomalous beast, half elephant, half camel, carved in a greenish- 
white stone. He is worth looking at, though his tail does end in a 
great flowery scroll, and though lesser scrolls come from his mouth 
instead of tusks, and meander aimlessly around his body. I remem- 
ber well the day he was bought. I had come up the Canton river 
— the name always escapes me — and settled down disgustedly in a 

horrible little hotel, for Archdeacon G y, universal Amphitryon, 

was away, and I knew no one else in the city. And at the hotel two 
jade merchants, on the look-out for the "foreign devil," beset me, 
and sold me — at an exorbitant price, as I afterwards discovered — 
several of their wares, and told me all sorts of cheerful intelligence. 

1 I never could remember the name of this pastime, but it has a refreshingly innocent 
and simple character as played by two or three stout Belgian papas and mammas, who toss 
the ball from one to another with gambols and shrill whoops of delight. — Calebs, 

114 






a^S^Sm^^^ ^ 




A woman (she had killed her husband after betraying him) was 
to be cut in pieces (a regular and peculiarly horrible judicial punish- 
ment in China) that morning, and my commercial friends were very 
anxious I should not miss the opportunity, and exhausted themselves 
in description of the details of the execution. I went for a walk 
instead, up that extraordinary Canton High Street, which still 
seems to me the most wonderful business alley of the world, with 
the swarming population, the deafening music -rooms, the long 
narrow crimson and scarlet banners covered with quaint vertical 
inscriptions in golden hieroglyphics, the strange wares, animate and 
inanimate; and, what impressed me most of all, the butchers' 
shops, where the little fat white dogs hung head downwards, looking 
like idealised sucking-pigs. 

That bit of jade has seen some queer things since then, and 
lived in five different houses ere finally returning. There are 
things of which no man can get rid, try as he will, and this is 
one of them. One halcyon day I thought my elephant -camel 
and I were indeed two, for I persuaded a relation, who must 
have been temporarily deranged, to give me ten pounds for him ; 
but his possession was only for a short time. I never knew whether 
it was his wife who refused to have the ugly thing in the house ; 
but in any case he brought the green brute back ; and from that 
day to this I have made no attempt to get rid of him. Nay, 
even a spurious attachment has sprung up between us, and I 
have discovered that he possesses negative merits of remarkable 
extent. He is phenomenally unsteady, for instance, and far too top- 
heavy for his minute ebony stand, and he is unbreakable ! More- 
over, if he falls upon anything he destroys that object utterly. I 
view him now, mainly as a curious example of the height to which 
the love of buying useless things can be pushed, and I remember 
penitently that from that first trip of mine in the East I sent home 
large cases from every available port, filled with such idiotic pur- 
chases. Most of these, however, I sold at Christie's many years 
ago, where they realised to my surprise about half what I had paid 
for them in the East. A relation, however, who advised me not to 
attend the sale, bought a lafge number, and was, I believe, satisfied. 
Jade has this special attraction to an ignorant purchaser, that it is 
almost impossible to tell the good from the bad, the real from the 
imitation, without a great deal of experience. 

Yes, that is a pretty frame. I bought it at Delhi in '74 ; there 
was a miniature in it then of the Tdj, and an old Parsee sold it to 
me in the verandah of the hotel. Carved ebony and silver as you 
see. Look at the delicate convolutions of the pattern, copied from 
the Italian ornament on the T4j itself! 

115 



And the portrait ! You think it pretty ? You think you've seen 
the face before — in the photograph-shops ? Possibly, my Achates. 
Yet few portraits so expensive as this, are purchased and paid for. 
What visions, what regrets, do not rise before me as I look through 
the thin clouds of my cigar smoke at this, the one ornament of my 
writing-table! A girl's profile exquisitely delicate in every line, 
heavy masses of hair brought low down upon the forehead, the head 
set finely upon a slender rounded neck, some stage pearls and a 
morsel of a white dress ! 

Yes, she was beautiful, and very brave, and would, I used to think, 
have made a typical Queen of Beauty in old days. She would 
have smiled upon the victor, who, as Lawrence once put it, " came 
a- wooing with the blood of last night's favourite still red upon his 
sword." For there was something of .pitilessness in her, potent and 
ineradicable. Always in her nature were fighting the elements of truth 
and falsehood, and the long struggle between feeling and pretence 
took, perhaps, lasting shape from the theatrical surroundings of her 
life. Hers was one of those natures in which vanity, when once 
permitted to take root, quickly overshadows all the other qualities ; 
from the first moment that the world recognised her as a beauty the 
result was inevitable. That most damnable fashion of the day, which 
sets the photographs of beautiful girls in every shop-window, has 
much to answer for, and the effect of the society paper paragraphs is 
perhaps more injurious still to the modesty and true dignity of 
maidenhood. Poor Amy, she might have been a happy woman had 
it not been for her one besetting foible of vanity. Under its influence 
I lived to see her face gradually growing harder and harder, till at last 
all the photographer's cunning could not conceal the cold brilliant 
stare of the eyes, or the hardening of the delicate curves of the lips. 
All that is long ago ; the photograph, you will see, is faded, but the 

beautiful Miss is the beautiful Miss still. We were good 

friends, nothing more, but I once met the man she loved (or at leeist 
the man who thought that she loved him), who was engaged to her, 
and whom she threw over three weeks before her marriage was to 
take place, without hesitation or excuse. He seemed a queer fellow, 
iDut there was something to be said for his point of view. " I did not 
mind her throwing me over," he said, " so much, though it's always 

unpleasant, you know, that sort of thing ; but I did mind her 

having sent me with the other Johnnie's stick." This was sufficiently 
ambiguous ; but I discovered on interrogation that the man for whom 
my acquaintance had been jilted had shortly before left his stick at 
the beauty's house, and with a refinement of ingenuity she had s6nt 
it back to the club by the hands of hex fiancd, just before breaking off 
the engagement! I sympathised with my "Johnnie" after that, and 
when he had further been comforted by a whisky and Apollinaris he 

Ii6 



departed, grumbling. What would have happened had they married 
I wonder? Perhaps the "other Johnnie's stick" would have ap- 
peared all the same ; perhaps, with that wonderful change which turns 
reckless girls and men oftentimes into good husbands and wives, 
they might even now be jogging along happily together. My friend 
was, I fancy, capable of something more than the Club and whisky 
and Apollinaris ; and she — ^well, it is a poor reward for courage, 
purity, and beauty if they can gain no joy or reward for their 
possessor beyond a flush of gratified vanity from the paragraphs in 
the Fashionable Intelligence ! 

One of those two oil sketches has a little history. The scene is, 
as you may see, a shipwreck ; the fisher-people have rushed out to 
see the vessel drift past. This was an actual experience. A howling 
gale was blowing one Sunday morning, and, driven indoors by stress 
of weather and the impossibility of keeping an easel up in face of 
such a gale, I was making a study of the waves from the inn window, 
when suddenly the wreck drifted in sight, the fishermen and their 
wives rushed out, and the picture made itself without any thought or 
care on the part of the artist. How well the evening of that day 
comes back ! It was late autumn, and there were four of us ; two of 
either sex. The women were staying at the inn, my friend and myself 
in lodgings at the little village. We were, at all events for that time, 
in a happy state of respectable Bohemianism. In the daytime we 
painted ; in the evening there was good music from one of the 
women, and the rest of us talked, and designed, and wrote villainous 
sonnets, and were generally, but cheerfully, aesthetic. 

How Mrs. Grundy would have stared and lifted her hands in 
horror, for relationship, even of the most distant cousinly kind, there 
was none between us, and we were not even in love with one another; 
simply four good comrades, of whom two happened to be women. 

Another memorial of that day hangs upon that wall in the shape of 
a brace of queer designs very beautifully embroidered in coloured silk 
on white cloth. On one of them a peacock, at least a couple of 
inches high, gorgeous with outspread tail, and surrounded with a 
trelliswork of vines heavy with clusters of purple grapes, stands above 
the legend Qtiand mime, the significance of which is not immediately 
apparent. And on the other is wrought in profusion of delicate 
detail a flower-grown field by the sea, beyond which one delicate thread 
of white silk marks the boundary of the chalk cliff, and over a line of 
blue water hangs, in a morsel oi filoselle, the crescent moon. For we 
had been chaffing about women and men, and their respective work, 
and some had scoffed specially at needlework, and its incapacity with 
regard to drawing, whereupon one said, " I don't think you could 

117 



draw anything which we could not work," and so I scribbled three 
designs as a challenge, lying on the sofa the while, while my friend 
made a study of the needlewoman's head, and her May, who had a 
genius for playing Chopin, drifted on from one nocturne to another, 
quietly, tenderly. How long ago it all seems ! How utterly impossible 
that quartette should ever sit, and work, and play together again ! To 
quote Owen Meredith, " Since then, what is it we have won " but the 
knowledge that such repetition is impossible ? Is not all repetition 
impossible? On life's road as on the track to the lion's cave — 
Vestigia nulla retrorsum. To attempt to re-enact such an experience 
is to destroy even its memory ; to reduce to everyday prose, an 
incident which, through some subtle touch of sympathy or circum- 
stance, was in its way perfect — perfect in unreserve, in given and 
merited trust, in frank enjoyment of one another's society, in the 
practice of what artistic faculty we could boast, for the simple pleasure 
of doing the work. The shabby low-ceilinged inn parlour rises again 
before me, with May turning round from the piano. " Does it sound 
— very awful ?" and the ruddy gold of the lamplight in Ethel's hair, 
and the uncleared-away remains of the composite meal, in which beer 
and tea, salad and prawns, cold beef and cherries, had all borne a 
part. Ah, well ! one of us is married since then, and one is — not ; 
and with the others Time has dealt after his usual fashion, diapering 
the light and shadow from year to year. 

And here, too, is one of my chief treasures ; an old altar-piece 
perhaps by Guido of Sienna ; at all events, by some good painter of 
his time and school ; a picture on whose genuineness even the experts 
throw no doubt. No one who has not lived with them can know the 
charm of these pre-Raphaelite pictures, and no one who has lived 
with them, I think, can tell you exactly wherein the charm consists. 
One is tempted to say that the sincerity of feeling is in such work the 
chief source of attractiveness. I cannot see why other styles of 
painting are less sincere — styles from which the charm of which we 
are speaking is undeniably absent. Strangely as it may sound to the 
ears of modern aesthetic readers, it is after all probable that much of 
the secret of these pictures lies in their subject, in 

" The old series. Virgin, babe, and saint," 

and that they appeal to us in our deeper moods mainly because they 
touch, even in their faultiest representation, those deeper springs of 
feeling which have been the long-enduring possession of mankind. 
For though religions change, though they rise, flourish, and decay, 
the religious sentiment itself is permanent ; and feeling it as we 
all do, in some shape or another, in our most thoughtful hours, 
we like to have, and find in accordance with our own feeling, 
the silent evidence which these pictures give us, that earlier genera- 

ii8 



s 7 







M A D O N N A 

PERUOINO 

In the possession of (lie author 



tions felt the same. Such pictures — where the religion has been, 
above all, the motive of the painting, where it has dominated the 
expression of the artist's thought, and restrained the exercise of his 
genius within certain lines — are no doubt frequently imperfect in their 
expression of the painter's genius ; but, on the other hand, much 
errant, uncertain, and imperfect art was by this sentiment refined and 
sobered, was educated, so to speak, out of its eccentricities and, 
intellectually speaking, its aberration. I fancy this is why almost all 
the pictures of a certain period are good to live with, not of course 
good in the same degree, but good in the sense of not growing, 
stale, not jarring upon us when we have exhausted their superficial 
attractions. There is nothing easier than to laugh at the almond- 
shaped eyes, the long boneless hands, the wooden limbs and 
bodies, the dislocated necks and conventional surroundings which we 
find in paintings of the Siennese, and other early Italian schools, 
but such laughter is not an explanation of the fact that such 
pictures do possess in a special degree the quality of harmony with 
their surroundings, so long as those surroundings are unmeretricious, 
and untheatrical. 

■Here is another face which the world would call fair, if only for its 
colouring, and the depth and softness of the eyes, which recalls to me 
another aspect of the river. Every Londoner will know one day, 
and a few of us know now, how rarely beautiful at night is that long 
curve of the Embankment which stretches from Westminster to 
Waterloo Bridge ; and here a man whom I knew used to meet his 
sweetheart "after the show." She was only a chorus-girl, he told 
me, rather prettier than the rest, and did actually, what so many do 
in theory, keep her relations on her slender salary, and disliking the 
crowd and loungers of the Strand, would, whenever the night was 
fine, walk down to Westminster. There one night I saw them, 
walking swiftly hand in hand, she all in black, with a thick veil, 
talking eagerly. The electric lights of the Embankment and 
Waterloo Bridge cast long lines of brightness on the water ; the 
lights of the cabs and omnibuses could just be seen above the parapet 
of the bridge, and beneath the great arches looked dark and heavy ; 
and on all the long pavement were only those two figures ! They 
passed without heeding me, where I stood in the shadow of the great 
bronze sphinxes which guard Cleopatra's Needle, and so away to the 
lighted tower of Westminster. The clock struck midnight, and I 
listened while the reverberations of the last stroke seemed to sink 
into the ripple of the river, and float away seaward— when I turned 

the street was empty. Not long afterwards they were parted : 

he gave me that photograph. Why, you may guess ; for every now 
and then he will come and chat here, and smoke, and talk of all 
subjects but one, again and again his eyes will turn, as it were, un- 
consciously, to where it stands. How it happened, and whose was 

119 



the fault, whose (perhaps) the sin, I never asked. Men, you know, 
do not ask these things of one another, but I never see him sitting 
there, bright, prosaic, and apparently commonplace, without thinking 
of that windy autumn evening, of her eager voice, his bent-down 
head, of the hand firmly clasped in hand. I do not fancy he was bad 
to her, I hardly think she was false to him. I fancy rather " domestic 
necessity in the shape of relations," as George Eliot puts it, came 
between them, and made this, too, an unfinished love story. 

What shall be said of my one extravagance in pottery, this 
Majolica plate whose shifting lustre brightens the dark corner of the 
room ? The colour of the groundwork is blue, shaded with white, 
and the whole design is painted thereon in a deep rich yellow, on 
which the red, blue, and purple reflections of the lustre shine 
splendidly ; indeed, in some lights the glaze of the -dish seems to hold 
an imprisoned rainbow, and whatever quarrel the beautiful Sebastiana, 
whose portrait occupies the middle of the dish, may have had with 
the artist who gave her so much forehead and so little chin, she 
certainly cannot reproach him with the rest of the design, for a more 
beautiful piece of simple decoration is rarely seen. And it is especi- 
ally worth noting to those who are believers in what may be called 
the South Kensington style of decoration, that the design here 
pleases as much by its freedom as by its ingenuity and repetition. 
There are no two parts of this plate which exactly echo one another, 
but everywhere we can trace that likeness in unlikeness, that frequent 
and, so to speak, irresponsible variation of the pattern, which shows 
that the artist who executed the work was in all human probability 
the artist who invented the design, and that he allowed his hand and 
mind perfect freedom to make what variation he pleased as the plate 
proceeded. 

And lastly, will you look with me at this shabby little black frame 
enclosing a pencil sketch, done in a half-hearted, pre-Raphaelite 
manner, of some reeds, and a broad stretch of river bounded by an 
elm-shaded towing-path ? Midway there stands an old inn, with 
landing-stage for the ferry, and beyond, the long wall of a park. 
Half a score such scenes may be found between Putney and Oxford 
on the river, as rowing-men are apt to call the hundred miles or so 
of stream so dear to them, for the love of the Thames is almost 
personal in its intensity and character ; no other stream is ever quite 
the same to our "watermen;" no other is ever called simply /y|^ 
river. Mark, that for real Thames lovers there is not even an 
emphasis on the the — other streams are forgotten, non-existent. 
Many a year before this drawing was done I had sculled past 
the spot, little thinking I should ever stay there, for nothing invited 
even the most irresponsible reviewer. One summer, however, 
found me in a cottage almost within a stone's-throw of the old inn, 

I20 



and nearer to our watery highway, a girl I cared for, lived with her 
people. It was a perfect summer— perfect in weather, with bright 
sunshine and warm showers, and fresh cool breezes blowing over the 
flower-laden, sweet-scented fields. I had paddled up a decent boat 
from " Messenger's "—is that deaf waterman, with the rolling eyes and 
humorous thirsty mouth, still there, I wonder ?— and all day, till late 
afternoon, we paddled about, or rested in the friendly back waters, 
or drifted down stream idly. How the scenes rise ! The lingering 
mist in the grey early morning, and the icy coolness of the water by 
the island from which I used to bathe, the quiet pull back to break- 
fast — not at my cottage— the cool dresses of the women— she gener- 
ally wore her straw hat with a spotted blue ribbon in it at breakfast so 
as to be ready for the boat — ^the long-legged brother who came down 
to see us off, but who was allowed to come no farther ; the mother's 
gentle insinuations that it would be as well to turn up at the midday 
meal ; our impatience to be off; the rest which came when the first 
dip of the sculls took us fairly out into the stream ! Summer can be 
very pleasant, and it was very pleasant then. 

Was it all a dream ? Did these things ever happen ? Did this 
woman love me then ? Did I love her ? Is it nothing but a vision 
of the Inn ? Who shall say ? Yet do I not hear her voice now, at 
the time I thought there was an ominous foreboding in its accent, 
" Have you had a pleasant time } " and I said Pleasant ! That was 
the day before the summer ended, and in the evening we sculled a 

friend who had been down for Sunday to to catch the 10.30 

express. I remember he nearly drowned us, by the way, first by in- 
sisting on sculling, then by steering us into every object, stationary or 
locomotive, he could see, or couldn't see, for the night was dark then, 
and he was shortsighted. At last, in terror lest he should miss his 
train and have to be taken back, we persuaded him to be quiet in 
the bows. We lost some time changing, a ticklish operation in our 
skiff, and the train-time was not far off when I, to use an old boating 
phrase, "laid down to my work." In those days I could still scull a 
bit, and was, at all events, in hard training. The swish of the boat 
through the dark water ; the dim silhouette of the girl before me ; 
the freshening coolness of the night spreading its dark wings round 
us ; the sulky silence of my friend in the bows ; the excitement of 
the race against time and darkness ; the thought of the paddle back 
when the moon would be up and the river quiet ; the camp-fires on 
the bank ; the black silence of the open locks — all sights, and sounds, 
and thoughts were good that night. So we raced down the stream, 
silent by mutual if unspoken consent, till, at last — the indistinct 
outlines of a bridge and church tower, and, farther off, the signal 
lights of the railway, grew out of the shadows. 

We landed him — a good fellow anywhere but in a boat. I hope 
R 121 



he will forgive me if he ever sees these lines. We turned the skiff's 
nose homeward; my companion would pull, "to rest me," she said, 
putting her hand on my shoulder as she stepped lightly into the 
boat, and so we started. It was growing late, the campers-out had 
finished supper, and as we passed the first lock (where I took the 
sculls) the moon rose. The stream glowed blue silver between the 
shadows of the bank. There were scattered lights in the tents, and 
as we passed up the stream Helen began to sing, and from the 
shore the men's voices took up the burden, and as we swept gently 
beyond each camp, good-nigkt and answering good-night went to and 
fro between the singer and the chorus. What hour was it when I 
drove the boat into the thick bank of reed from which my sketch 
was afterwards taken ? How long did the quiet summer night look 
down upon us there ? Who knows ? It was so long ago ! We 
were very foolish, but very happy, and if we thought that the reeds, 
and the river, and the little wandering breezes whispered of a 
future, fairer even than that present, well, others have had similar 
fruitless fancies. Exquisite moments are, Mr. Pater tells us, the 
only things worth living for, and even in that very hour I told 
myself that no fruition of love could be more exquisite than this 
promise — never to be fulfilled. 

So, as the shadows deepen, the memories come and go — the 
memories of the long past days, and in vain we strive to stay their 
fleeting presence, and vainly think — If we could but have those 
days again ! If the clock would but for once run backward, then 
should we not be blest indeed ? But, it may be otherwise. Perhaps 
only loss gives the true sweetness to possession, perhaps only 
change makes so dear that which we have left. Could we look 
forward, as we look back, and with equal knowledge, might we 
not envy our present secure seat in life, our thronged conscious- 
ness, nay even those regrets in which so much of the past fondly 
lingers, which, let us hope, make our actions kindlier, our hearts 
less rudely selfish than in the old blossoming time .'' For, rightly or 
wrongly, we have now gathered the fruit of life ; we have lived, we 
know. And if the experience has brought us sorrow, has it not 
also brought us some touch of that happiness which is akin to 
sorrow, nay, which is only possible to those who have suffered, 
perchance even to those who have sinned .>* For while the world 
spins round in its accustomed way, and men and women are born 
wingless and imperfect, so long will the best wisdom be bought 
with pain, and the best happiness be that which has so well been 
said to be only distinguishable from grief " because it is that which 
our souls would choose, because we see that it is good." 

Nor would I have even the most hurried reader imagine that the 

122 



present writer would preach in any sense the superiority of the 
single life, or exalt the delights of irresponsibility and change, at 
the expense of the less exciting duties and affections of the wedded 
state. When all is said and done there must always lie in wait for 
the bachelor that worst of punishments, isolation. Sooner or later 
his friends die, change to him, marry, or pass away into other 
lands and are occupied with other interests. One by one his 
intimates are gone from club or college, on 'Change or racecourse, 
amongst the stubbles or on the moor; his young relations grow 
up, and he becomes to them a fogey, and whilst the married man 
lives again, more secure in the happiness of his children than he 
ever was in that of his own youth, the bachelor grows older at the 
sight, and loses touch with citizenship. He becomes an anachron- 
ism, and has either to make a poor, imitation, cuckoo-like home 
for himself in a friend's household, or harden into the confirmed 
club or society man, a living protest against society. Better perhaps 
any shipwreck than this abandonment of enterprise, any action 
than this selfish quiet, any worries, exertion, and disappointments 
of real life, than this fruitless dwelling amidst the memories of the 
vanished years. 



123 



IN MEMORIAM: FRANK HOLL.^ 




ITHIN the last twenty years the best of the younger 
generation of our artists have died before their 
prime, and by the death of Mr. Frank Holl another 
name has been added to the already long list. Let 
us think for a moment of those who have thus been 
taken from us, ere speaking of the latest loss. 

First there comes to mind the name of George Mason, the lover 
of English landscape and English children, the exquisite colourist, 
the keen disciple of simple beauty, the painter of "The Evening 
Hymn" and "The Harvest Moon." His was a strange life, artistic- 
ally, for during some years he showed little trace of his characteristic 
genius, and painted in Italy the most ordinary pictures of Campagna 
peasant life. He was nearly starving, I have been told, when 
Signor Costa ^ found him and took him into his Roman studio, and 
there and thence, strange as it may sound. Mason learnt — poetry ! 
— learnt from this grave, fastidious, thoughtful Italian, the beauty of 
sentiment, the delicacy of hand, the pure classical grace of line 
which he was subsequently to develop beyond his master's capacity, 
and under our northern skies. 

I like to think that the one thing wanting to Costa's minute, 
graceful and elaborate art, the sentiment of humanity, the con- 
nection of the artistic beauty represented with the every-day feelings 
and actions of men, is just what Mason gained when he left that 
Italian studio and turned for his subjects to the children whom he 
found playing in English meadows, to the lovers whom he watched 

1 This article was written in haste within a few days of Frank HoU's death. I have 
thought it better to let it appear here without alteration, as unless I re-wrote the paper 
altogether I could not remove its mark of a special occasion. 

2 He exhibits in England still, and is not yet an old man. 

124 



whispering in English lanes, to the reapers faring homewards under 
the harvest moon, or the village girls singing in the twilight. For a 
very few brief years Mason painted such pictures, and then, in the 
prime of his art, died suddenly— an unparalleled loss to English art. 
He left alive, however, in early manhood, two men who might to 
some extent have carried on his art, or rather his character of subject 
and the spirit in which he had treated it, and these were Fred Walker 
and George Pinwell ; two names that should never be disassociated. 
Friends in life and companions in death, there was also in their art 
strange like-and-unlikeness ; they worked towards the same end from 
different points of view. 

_ George Pinwell was a painter whose work was never fully appre- 
ciated during his lifetime, and is even now almost unknown to the 
general public. But he was an artist of the rarest quality, with a 
mind full of strange fancies, and a technical power of expressing these 
in delicate and vivid colour which has rarely been rivalled. He either 
learnt from Walker, or learnt with Walker, that curious water-colour 
method, "half wash, quarter fresco," as Ruskin once described it, 
which the latter painter carried to such perfection ; but he never quite 
mastered the mechanical difficulties of his art, and he was but just 
feeling his way towards painting in oils when he died. Yet with all 
his technical deficiencies the sentiment of beauty was even stronger in 
Pinwell than in the painter of the " Ploughing" and the " Old Gate." 
At least, it was stronger for all imaginative work, and the character 
of his pictures owed less to the artists of former times, for the grace 
of Fred Walker's ploughman and labourers was adopted, it is impos- 
sible to deny, from classic art. The very horses in the " Ploughing," 
for instance, might have stepped down from the frieze of the Parthenon. 
But in Pinwell's best work, such for instance as " The Elixir of Love," 
" The Earl O'Quarterdeck," " The Saracen Maiden entering London," 
etc., it is most difficult to trace the source from which the artist 
derived his inspiration. And there is, moreover, in these works a 
curious strain of morbid feeling from which Walker was entirely free ; 
but on these points I must not here dwell. It is only necessary to 
say, whatever may have been the contrast between the imaginative 
beauty of Pinwell's work and the realistic beauty of Walker, that both 
were artists of the rarest capacity, who dealt in the main with English 
contemporary subjects, and succeeded in manifesting the poetry and 
the artistic opportunities of every-day modern life. When these men 
died (Walker was thirty-three, Pinwell thirty-four) they left a blank 
which our art has as yet been unable to fill. No English painter of 
to-day carries on worthily their idyllic tradition. Moreover, it is 
worthy of notice that the direction which painting has taken since 
their death — the direction, namely, of imitation of the French school 
— is manifestly opposite in tendency to the whole spirit of Walker 

125 



and Pin well's painting, which was in its essentials of Italian (and 
pre-Raphaelite Italian too) descent, and which above all things was 
founded upon colour instead of being founded upon " value." 

About the same time that Pinwell and Walker died, there died, too, 
another man whose art might possibly have rivalled theirs had its 
possessor lived. Boyd Houghton was one of those designers of whom 
the world knows but little, but who are greatly esteemed by their 
artistic contemporaries. His work, chiefly consisting of designs for 
woodcuts, has very rare imaginative qualities, his originality, and 
occasionally his power, are extraordinary; but there was a lack of 
sanity in the man's life, and to some extent this was reflected in his 
art. With him, too, one thinks of Valentine Bromley, also an original 
worker who never lived "to beat his music out." AH of these were 
figure-painters, at least chiefly ; but the list would not be complete 
without the mention of the only great landscape-artist who belonged 
to the same generation — Cecil Lawson. He, too, was scarcely recog- 
nised before he died ; and it only seems yesterday that the world was 
talking about his first great landscape at the Grosvenor Gallery, and 
discussing why the Royal Academy had always rejected him. He, 
too, was in sympathy with the idyllic school : his landscapes were in 
some sense " short stories." An intention ran through the work : a 
hint of meaning as well as of beauty. A bit of nature, yes, but a bit 
of man too — that was the subject-matter of his pictures as it has been 
the subject-matter of all really great landscape-art. 

And now, but slightly older than these men I have mentioned, but 
with a fuller record and infinitely better known to the public, Mr. 
Frank HoU has "joined the majority," and left a gap in the ranks of 
our portrait-painters which will be difficult to fill. 

HoU was when he died beyond all comparison the most popular of 
our living portrait-painters : this may be confidently stated, without 
even making the exception in favour of Sir John Millais, whose work 
in this department of art, though possessed at its best of finer quali- 
ties of painting and colour than are to be found in any of Frank 
HoU's pictures, has been of late years so unequal, and frequently so 
perfunctory in its execution, that it is little more than an even chance 
whether any given example will be a success or failure. This uncer- 
tainty is rarely felt with regard to a portrait by Frank Holl. No 
doubt some of his likenesses are more successful than others ; some 
of his sitters necessarily gave him fuller opportunities, or excited in 
him a greater sympathy. But in each case, almost (as far as I can 
remember) without exception, the portraits produced were sound 
sterling pieces of work, executed throughout with the painter's utmost 
skill and care. Indeed, few artists living or dead could be cited 

126 




Imp. D 



FRANK HOLL: A SKI:TCH FROM LIKE 

RliNOUARD 



whose pictures are so level in quality, and have such a thorough 
workmanlike aspect, touching manufacture in its uniformity, and yet 
entirely free from dulness or conventionality. I have said in another 
place that this artist threw, to some extent, the cloak of his own per- 
sonality over all his sitters, but the transformation he effected was 
consistent with a most vivid and faithful rendering of his subject — a 
life-likeness, so to speak, which combined the vivacity and emotion 
of life with an almost photographic accuracy of detail. Every one 
who has studied Mr. Holl's art will admit the truth that he was at 
once the most accurate and literal, and the most prejudiced (not in a 
bad sense) and ideal of portrait-makers ; that he had two moods, in 
one of which he grasped thoroughly every characteristic of the sub- 
ject before him, and another in which he let himself go, and brought 
his picture into accordance with his personal sentiment. 

This is not the place to enter upon a lengthy technical criticism, 
but it is perhaps permissible to point out that, in respect of his flesh- 
painting and the general colour quality of his pictures, Holl was more 
allied to the French than the English school. There is, in truth, a 
considerable likeness in many of his portraits to those of Carolus 
Duran, and there is something, too, of the same swift, certain execu- 
tion, just on the good side of sketchiness, that is to be found in the 
work of the great French master. The one colour which he loved 
above all others, and which forms the keynote of almost every picture 
of his which I remember, was black,^ and his dexterity in the manage- 
ment of this tint was extraordinary. There is an often-quoted remark 
amongst artists that you may tell a colourist by the manner in which 
he treats black, i.e. by the amount of colour he gets into it. And if 
this be true, Frank Holl's claims to be considered a colourist are 
indisputable, though we must admit that he was a colourist in a 
peculiar fashion, finding his greatest successes in a very restricted 
scheme of tint. It is rash to prophesy, but future years will, I think, 
bring the judgment that the great deficiency of his portraits is to be 
found in the character of the flesh-painting, in a certain opacity and 
paintiness of texture which bears little resemblance to the transpar- 
ency and brilliancy of life. I think his too great devotion to a sharply 
effective style of chiaroscuro is in great measure answerable for this, 
and his exclusive preference for black may perhaps be traced to the 
same source. But to whatever cause the effect may be due there 
seems to me no doubt that the deficiency is a real one ; we do not 
feel that the blood is pulsating beneath the skin, that the flesh will 
bleed if it be pricked — that, in fact, it is flesh, not paint, at which we 
are looking. 

Thinking of Sir John Millais' work in this connection, I cannot 
help feeling that there is here a whole world of difference in favour 

1 If black may be called a colour. 
127 



of the elder master. When every defect is fully noted, when the 
haste and carelessness which are nowadays so plainly visible are fully 
discounted, there still remains in the men and women painted by 
Millais that feeling of living flesh of which in HoU we are forced to 
note the absence. The place of the latter in English portrait-painting 
in future years will probably rank after that of Millais and Watts. 
There is in this last-mentioned artist's work especially an element of 
style, an impression of bigness (if the expression may be tolerated), 
which HoU did not possess. If we think of the great portrait- 
painters of earlier times, we find there are two points in which almost 
all their pictures agree, one being the possession of this element of 
style, the other, a certain quietude and absence of emphasis in the 
expression of the sitter. The early portraits do not shriek at you, 
their voices hardly rise above a whisper, and their words are Sibyllic 
in the variety of interpretations we may put upon them. Herein we 
touch a great weakness of modern art ; it must always be explaining 
itself, as if the spectator couldn't be trusted to interpret. And I 
think Holl's painting "puts the dots on the i's" too blackly and too 
frequently. Seeking to differentiate carefully, one is apt to imagine 
peculiarities for which there is little real foundation ; but still, making 
every allowance for fancy, it does seem to me true that all the people 
Frank HoU painted are in the habit of saying,-' " I tell you I am the 
Prince of Wales," " I tell you I am Sir William Jenner," or whoever 
it may be, and calling you to witness the various details of their per- 
sonality in support of the assertion. And this quality of insistence, 
of rampant personality, is one of the many bad effects caused by an 
artist having crowds of sitters all eager to have themselves painted 
by the fashionable portrait-painter of the day ; they will not leave 
him time to be himself, or to study anything in them but their outer 
appearance. " Here I am ; come along quick, and paint me ! " they 
cry ; and so the artist does, and when the picture is finished it has an 
indefinable look of the outside of a man only. 

Let me, if possible, prevent my meaning on this point being mis- 
understood. A great artist may paint very excellent portraits and 
yet may not be a great portrait-painter ; and this is not a paradox. 
There is a difference between a vivid likeness and great portrait- 
painting which it were too long to attempt to discuss here, but which 
rests perhaps upon the power of the painter to understand the char- 
acter and to feel in sympathy with the finer instincts of his sitter. 
For in all great portraiture I fancy there is the feeling, if it may be 
so expressed, of quiet personality. Not a man angry or haughty, not 
a woman showing her teeth in a smile, or with her eyes full of tears, 
but of definite people who would be either haughty, or angry, or sad, 
or cheerful in a certain way. Now it has always seemed to me in 

* In their pictured selves, of course, I mean. 
128 



looking at HoU's portraits that their real deficiency was that they 
always express a mood ; that the artist had not begun to paint them 
till he had got the idea of a mood, of a, so to speak, mental effect, 
before him, and then he had set to work and produced his picture. 
This is true even of his finest work in this branch of art : as, for 
instance, in the Mr. Gladstone, Sir William Jenner, and Lord Spencer 
portraits in this year's Academy; in his less successful portraiture 
the mood depicted is frequently the artist's own, and this gave to 
many of his likenesses a curious resemblance. Some years ago — I 
forget how many — I wrote upon this point as follows, and I see no 
reason to change the main part of my opinion, though the manner of 
its expression is more suited to the columns of a newspaper than to 
the pages of a review. 

Mr. Frank HoU is the most powerful and in some ways one of the 
best portrait-painters of the Academy, as he is one of the most 
original — an " Israels " of the middle classes. He is distinctly 
a tragedian ; his very mildest pictures savour of the " dagger 
and the bowl." I have seen portraits (and good portraits too) 
by him of most estimable people — Deans and Masters of col- 
leges, etc., etc., who never had a wrong thought in their lives, 
but to whom Mr, HoU has given such a don't-meet-me-on-a- 
dark-night kind of look, that one almost felt as if he must in the 
course of his painting have discerned some dreadful secret in 
those apparently blameless breasts, such *' damnable faces " 
have his sitters shown. Portraiture which strikes the spectator 
in this way is by no means necessarily the best, or even the 
most true. The result is got by an exaggeration, very possibly 
an unconscious exaggeration, of two or three leading traits ; the 
work is really on the very verge of caricature ; it is a man seen 
in a flash of lightning, not seen and painted after intimate know- 
ledge. Nevertheless, of its kind it is wonderful ; and there is 
a breadth of conception and a massive method of painting in 
these portraits of Mr. HoU's which renders them very im- 
pressive. In every case he seems to snatch at the main points 
of his sitter's character. It is the finer intellectual and moral 
gradations which are wanting, as are the finer gradations of 
light and shade ; probably both are inconsistent with the general 
aim of the painter. 

But I confess it is not as a portrait-painter that I like best to think 
of HoU, or that' I most deplore his loss. Good portrait-painters we 
have always had, and probably always shall have ; the rewards are 
great for such, the demand persistent ; the character of the English 
is in sympathy with such work ; the tradition of our art is in its 
favour. And, strange as it may seem, and violently as it will be 
s 129 



denied, it was not portraiture for which Mr. Frank Holl was 
supremely fitted. He had neither the coolness nor the intellectual 
breadth of mind which are necessary for the greatest achievements 
in this direction ; and the artistic gifts which he did possess fitting 
him for this branch of art were of a superficial character, and, 
though sufficient to render his portraits striking and popular, were 
probably the very qualities which would have prevented their ever 
becoming really great. 

This leads me to the consideration of that side of Frank Holl's 
art which was most genuine to him, and which, if more cultivated, 
would have rendered him a far greater artist than he ever would 
have' been as a portrait-painter. The native quality of his art was 
pathos ; the true domain of his painting was tragedy. Friends' 
advice, the blatant injustice of ignorant and prejudiced critics, and — 
alas ! that it must be said — the temptation to gain instant popularity 
and monetary success, turned this true tragedian, this man who was 
endowed by nature with the gift of pathos as genuine and simple as 
it was intense, into a fashionable portrait-painter. 

With the recollection of his earlier subjects vividly present to my 
mind, I can scarcely understand how it was that so many critics and 
picture-buyers hailed his departure from the imaginative art of his 
early manhood with so much enthusiasm. No doubt the subjects 
which in these early days found favour in Mr. HoU's sight were too 
entirely gloomy; people naturally resented the grave being forced upon 
their attention, in and out of season, and even the beautiful burial- 
service is apt to grow monotonous when its chief phrases are taken 
year after year as the title of a pathetic subject-picture. Still thinking 
of such works as " The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away," the 
"At Newgate," and the " I am the Resurrection and the Life," with 
their sure striking of the note of genuine pathos, their unbiassed 
strong delineation of the beauty and dignity of sorrow, I have always 
felt there was a loss rather than a gain when Mr. Holl, year by year, 
put twenty portraits on his easel, and turned us out to order, with 
the same underlying hint of tragedy, deans and doctors, princes and 
painters, mayors and merchants. With the same underlying hint of 
tragedy in their faces! Look at any portrait you please by this 
artist, and say if this is not true ; if the nature of the artist did not 
prove to the last stronger than his environment, and whether any 
amount of commonplace in the subject of his canvas availed entirely 
to conceal that tragic dramatic sentiment which sprang as it seemed 
unbidden from the painter's hand ? 

We do strange things with our artists in England : we are 
desperately afraid lest they should not be respectable and successful ; 

130 



we judge their art by the dwelling-place of its master in a fashion- 
able locality, by the amount of material dollars he gains per annum. 
How can a painter be expected to stand against such temptation ? 
" Here is a palace for you and ten thousand a year, and a prince for 
your model ! " So cries the world, and almost in a flash of light the 
words come true, and the easels on each of which stands the effigy of 
a celebrity throng the great studio, and between them paces rest- 
lessly, anxiously, hurriedly, the poor, rich, heaven-endowed genius, 
turning his back on those old sad, vivid dreams of tragedy and 
drama, death and beauty, sorrow and resignation, duty and hope, 
which had formed his ideal long ago. And the commissions 
multiply, ^nd the critics applaud delightedly, and the carriages of 
the nobility roll to the door faster and faster, and the income 
increases day by day, and the facility and strength of the painter's 
hand increase too : but further and further into the distance retreats 
the old youthful ideal of his art — On the great canvases the gentle 
English girl no longer bends her head in patient sorrow beside the 
empty chair of her dead father ; the mourners stand no longer by 
the grave, the old stories of the tragedy of life, of the felon, the 
deserter, the pauper, the besieged woman and her starving child, are 
hushed into silence. The great portrait-painter remains, but the 
great emotional artist of modern days has, in obedience to the 
bidding of society and success, stifled his soul within him, has 
forgotten the folk of his own rank and stifled that habit of mind 
which once called forth his truest sympathies. 

Perhaps at a time when so many friends, relations, and admirers 
are sorrowing for Mr. Holl's untimely death such words may seem 
of undue emphasis, but that the death was so untimely is due in no 
small measure to the facts hinted at above. " He worked himself to 
death"; so all his friends and intimates are saying. "He would 
take no rest ; he was strictly told that he must undertake less work." 
" He went for a holiday, and returned quickly and set to work again 
harder than ever." So, variously phrased, with more or less of truth 
or exaggeration, runs the account of HoU's latest days ; and I hold it 
to be part of the duty of a public writer, even at some risk of being 
called uncharitable and unkind, to force home upon those who will 
care to listen the truth that in all human probability it was simply 
the fierce race for success, wealth, and fame which brought poor 
Frank HoU to the grave. Fashion and wealth and genius are 
a queer trio for one man to manage, and a painter who has to make 
ten thousand a year to support his style of life, must sooner or later 
either scamp his work, or increase it to such a degree that his health 
breaks down. While hundreds of painters can make but the barest 
livelihood, a cruel, thoughtless fashion dictates that some dozen or 
two men shall be employed on every occasion, fitting or unfittmg, 

131 



whether they have time or no ; and the artist once drawn into this 
vortex of expense and popularity is no longer master of himself. 
He must live to some extent as his patrons live ; he must be ready 
at all hours to force his art to work to order; he must produce 
a certain quantity to meet that huge expense into which he has 
almost insensibly been drawn. And so when his health breaks 
down it comes to pass that he has either to choose between leaving 
the unnatural position (social position) into which his popularity has 
forced him, or with weary hand and failing energies continue the 
task. 

Is there no help for it ? Must all our great artists nowadays 
succumb to this devil in disguise who whispers to them of social 
advancement and an income of ten thousand a year ? Believe me, 
such things are inimical to art, if not inconsistent with it. The 
artist has one great advantage over all the rest of mankind : it is 
this, that his best pleasures cost — nothing ! Think what that means. 
It means that his ten thousand a year, his social position are in 
himself; they can never be taken from him, save by his own act. 
But to preserve them he must live that straightforward honest life 
in which alone they can flourish : he must see things as they are, 
not as Mrs. Ponsonby de Tompkins chooses to represent them, he 
must possess his soul quietly with a few true-hearted friends, not 
strew it upon the highways of acquaintance ; and, above all, he must 
do such work as it is in him to do, in obedience to his artistic 
instinct and knowledge, and not work to order in whatever direction 
he can make most money. 

The woodcut given is a specimen of the work done by HoU in 
book illustration, and for unforced dramatic quality there is only one 
living English artist — Sir John Millais — whose early work in this 
branch of art would compare favourably therewith ; and it is strange 
and somewhat painful to remember that when Mr. Millais (as he 
was then) produced work of this quality, he, too, was of Mr. H oil's 
age, and has since been enticed almost entirely into work which 
is less worthy of his genius. The worst part of portrait-painting in 
modern days is this, that it necessarily becomes in the majority of 
instances a question of money. An artist cannot feel a sympathy 
with his sitter to order, nor can he, if he is a fashionable painter, 
afford to decline all orders save from those with whom he can 
feel some sympathy. In consequence, the work, as is frequently the 
case with Sir John Millais, becomes hurried and insincere; at its 
best striving for some mere technical excellence. 

To return to this illustration by Mr. Holl : it is worth while for 
those readers who care about such matters to compare the draw- 
ing with those by Millais in Orley Farm and Framky Parsonage,^ 

1 Both works, of course, by Anthony Trollope. 
132 



which are, upon the whole, the best illustrations ever done for 
English novels, and which are also excellent specimens of the older 
fashioned style of wood-engraving now fast dying out. 

In respect of the wood-cutting, these present plates are not to be 
compared to the earlier ones, but in artistic quality, the comparison is 
not wholly in favour of Sir John Millais. Mr. Holl's work appears to 
me to be far less beautiful in line, and less attractive in what may be 
perhaps called sentimental expression, but it is more intellectual and 
decidedly more dramatic. In light and shade also, the advantage is, 
I think, on his side. In Millais' earlier drawings there was always 
a certain heaviness — a blackness about the shadowed portions — 
owing, I think, to the minuteness of the manner in which they were 
worked and the artist's attempt to express more of the form and 
texture of the shadowed object than there was light enough to make 
clearly comprehensible. This is shown clearly in such a drawing as 
that of "Lady Mason after her Confession,"^ and, for a still better 
example, in the " Cleopatra" of the illustrated Tennyson. Mr. Holl 
does not err in this respect, and indeed in the drawing here repro- 
duced, the chiaroscuro is most admirable, alike unforced, picturesque, 
and brilliant. 

Strong and good in drawing and composition from the technical 
point of view ; most excellent in its arrangement of light and shade, 
it is nevertheless chiefly delightful for the simplicity and truth to 
nature of its sentiment, for the easy naturalness with which the 
scene is shown. I have forgotten what incident in Phineas Redux 
this drawing illustrates — nor does it much matter, the picture tells 
its own story ; but it is worth consideration whether art of this 
sympathetic, unaffected kind is not the very best of which we 
Englishmen are capable ; whether our real strength is not to be 
found, neither in imitating the liveliness and artistic originality, nor 
the Gallic grace of our French neighbours, but in preserving that 
somewhat stolid but sincere dignity and homeliness which are, to some 
extent, a part of our national character. A Frenchman will always 
beat us on his own ground (beat us artistically, I mean) ; but will he 
beat us on ours ? I don't think any French artist with whose work 
I am acquainted could have produced such a picture as that here 
reproduced, in which strong artistic faculty is blended with a frank 
homeliness and simplicity. Such a design is equally an honour to 
the artist who conceived it, and to the writer whose book is illus- 
trated, and is even an honour to the national life one phase of 
which is faithfully shown. 

This is not the place to carry these notes further. They were 
undertaken by one who, personally unknown to the artist, has been 

* In Orley Farm, 
^11 



an admirer of his art from the beginning, and who feels most keenly 
the loss that his death will cause. If I have seemed to dwell less 
upon the brilliant qualities of his portraiture than upon what I think 
to have been his error (very unwillingly made and in obedience to 
great temptation) in leaving that field of ideal and emotional art in 
which he would have been so great, I have done so only because there 
has been so much said, and justly, in praise of his portraits, and so 
little remembered of his subject-work. Only last week I read in a 
well-known Review that Holl had no imagination, and that he always 
failed when he painted women portraits. As a matter of fact he never 
failed in painting women portraits, because he never attempted 
to paint one ; and if the artist of " The Lord gave and the Lord hath 
taken away" had no imagination it would be interesting to know in 
what manner of work the reviewer considers that quality to exist. 
The truth is quite in the other direction, and the pleasantest thing 
about his portraiture is, not its insight, but the imaginative element 
with which the artist contrived to endow his pictures, A sense of 
stress, of drama, if not of tragedy, is to be found in all of them, and 
had he continued to paint subjects, that power, which was native to 
him, would have made him the first English artist who had been 
thoroughly capable of depicting the pathos and the tragedy of modern 
life. 



134 



AMY LEVY:i A REMINISCENCE 
AND A CRITICISM. 




IJHERE lies hidden deeply in the heart of the West 
Country a secluded valley whose surrounding hills 
are fledged with fern and slim, small small-leaved 
elms ; while through the midst the tiniest of rivers 
winds its way to sea. The surrounding country 
is high and bare, with wind-swept fields and low 
stone fences, in whose turf-covered interstices Nature has sown a 
kindly crop of shrub-oak and wild flower. Here and there a poor 
village or quaint church-town with square grey tower lifts itself 
above the undulations of the moorland, and forms a centre alike 
for social gathering and religious devotion. Oftentimes indeed the 
tower served in the old days for sterner uses, and stood as a land- 
mark for weary, storm -tossed sailors, or for a last stronghold of 
defence against lawless robber or marauding lord. From the valley, 
however, of which I speak no one would guess at the character of 
the surrounding country, at the wild cliffs which are within rifle-shot 
of its peaceful trees and waters, at the great breakers which roll 
ceaselessly in from the Atlantic upon the little sandy Forth to whose 
shore the valley -river hurries through the pleasant marsh -lands. 
For, where the declivity begins — two miles from the sea — a tall wood 
fills the hollow of the down, and clothes the descent thickly with 
feathery pine and elm, so densely grown that even the noisy stream 
flows unseen beneath the branches of the trees. The path beneath 
the trees is verdant with fern and flower, and winds onward and 
downward ever, till almost upon the sea-level it reaches a white 
swing -gate, beyond which half-a-dozen cottage -roofs mark the 

^ Reuben Sachs (Macmillan and Co.) ; Miss Meredith (Hodder and Stoughton) ; A Minor 
Poet (Fisher Unwin) ; The Romance of a Shop (Fisher Unwin). 



last descent of the hill. If we pass the gate, the village inn, cynosure 
of the locality, lies before us at the base of a field orchard, backed by 
a row of elms, above which in springtime the rooks and jackdaws 
wheel and chatter noisily. On the right, the river rushes from the 
woods under a rough bridge of stone and timber within a dozen 
yards of the stables and farm-buildings at the back of the hostelry ; 
on the left, a little brook borders the steep lane in haste to join the 
larger stream, and on the side of the hill beyond the brook, a wide 
path leads up to an old stone manor-house, which has now for many 
a year been used as a convent by the nuns of Lanherne. 

Here it was that one day some years ago, weary but not sated 
with a long summer's painting on the Cornish coast, I came 
almost by chance — having driven twenty miles across country from 
my last resting-place in quest of fresh material. How easy to 
recollect, how difficult, if not impossible, to convey the impression of 
that first entrance to what became to me in after-time almost a home. 
A dark doorway leading to two or three narrow rooms, equally 
compounded, as I soon grew to know, of bar, sitting-room, and 
kitchen ; a distant view of villagers over their beer in the furthest 
room, and a shy girl with the true west-country rose-flush on her 
cheek serving them ; gleams of pewter, glass, and a silhouette of a 
stout, broad-shouldered man, who seemed to be silently master of the 
situation ; the usual plain chairs and tables, dark with use and age, 
in the front room, and, with a quiet, self-contained manner in which 
dignity and kindliness were subtly blended, a lady waiting, in the old 
phrase, to know my will. My will -^2^ to stop if I could — if I might 
— for evidently here it was a question not of money so much as of 
goodwill — so I proffered my request for accommodation somewhat 
hesitatingly. " Would they put up a painter for a few days ? Could I 
have a bedroom and a room to put my litter in ? " and so on. I was 
conscious, not altogether comfortably, of a quiet, judging glance — an 
estimation — a pause — before my interlocutress answered, having 
apparently decided in my favour, " Would I come upstairs and see i'" 
[the faintest note of interrogation would express the question]. So 
she took me upstairs into a long low chamber, which certainly did 
not provide the usual accotnmodation I had been accustomed to find 
in country hostelries. The walls were covered with pictures, in one 
of which I recognised a photograph from a friend's work, chiefly 
sketches in oil and water-colour ; the piano was heavy with music, 
most of which seemed to be Chopin and Beethoven ; and a volume 
of Schubert stood upright in front of the keys. The bookcase 
was literally crammed with books — Esmond standing by the side of 
Newman's Apologia and Kingsley's Water Babies, and Hawker's 
Cornish Ballads fraternising amicably with The Outcasts of Poker 
Flat and the Inland Voyage. The mantelpiece too was crowded 

136 



with photographs, and some big white lilies stood in pots in front of 
the lattice windows. 

Try to fancy it: a still July afternoon, the sun bright without the 
house, shining on the grey elms and the gnarled apple-trees which 
stood in an orchard close by, occasionally only the laugh of a child 
or the sound of an unhurried foot passing down the lane seaward, a 
faint suggestion of sound in the air which told of the unseen ocean, 
and an intermittent clinking of mugs from the kitchen below, where, 
as I discovered afterwards, the more respectable amongst the villagers 
were allowed — the word is strictly accurate, for they were not invited 
or encouraged — to take their afternoon beer. The interior of the 
room was dim, for the house was an old stone one with very 
thick walls, and the windows were but the ordinary cottage lattice 
filled with diamond panes of indifferent glass, and cumbrous wooden 
sashes and crossbars. My conductress stood gravely by the door, 
expectant, but not anxious for my decision. I asked her if this was 
the room that she proposed to give me, and she replied quite simply 

that it was the only one she and her sister had, but anyhow the 

matter was arranged, and I stayed. The days passed quickly, the 
weather was perfect, and (fortunately) no one came to stay at the inn 
but myself. My hostess and I grew to be very good friends, and 
every evening when supper was well over, and the last of the respect- 
able villagers had been gently suggested away to his wife and family ; 
when the father, who was nearly fourscore, had creaked his solid way 
to bed, and the son, who lived at an adjoining farm, had mounted his 
nag and clattered homeward, she would come softly upstairs, and 
opening the door of my sitting-room, start the evening's entertain- 
ment, as it were, by asking if there were anything more that she 
could do for me. This was 2i formula, as Charles Reade would put 
it, to which I duly replied, generally with the request for a little 
whisky and water, which she would bring, and still linger, standing 
just inside the room with one hand resting against the half-shut door, 
and the other holding her bedroom candlestick. I can see her now 
— a tall slight figure, with deep-set, serious eyes, from which it struck 
me that the light and colour had faded, a pale face, a lofty forehead, 
and plainly-braided light brown hair, above all a sensitive nervous 
mouth, the upper lip rather too long and straight for beauty, and 
habitually pressed against the lower as though to conceal pain. The 
dress, always very simple, of some grey or brownish-yellow stuff, the 
whole expression of the ligure and face gentle, yet austere. I never, 
in my life, met a woman so entirely mistress of herself, so secure in 
her fortress of purity and unselfishness, so resolutely brave, not only 
to do the thing which she thought right, but to make others do it, if 
speech or action of hers could possibly avail. ^ Still, even a good 
woman is but a woman after all, and her one innocent enjoyment 
T 137 



indoors was — a talk. So night after night we chatted for a long 
time in our respective positions, I sitting back in an arm-chair with 
my pipe and grog, and she standing by the table or door — for no 
entreaty would prevail upon her to sit down. 

She told me many things — of the wild flowers and ferns that grew 
in Carnanton woods, of the wrestling bouts in which her father had 
distinguished himself a generation since, of her relations and friends 
in London, of the awful weather "to the Forth " that winter, of the quiet 
holy life led by the nuns at the grey stone abbey which looked down 
' upon the river and the inn, of the young couples who would come to 
them now and again to spend their honeymoon, of her fondness for 
the sea, the fields, and the wood, and yet how she could "seldom get out 
for a walk " during the summer time ; of her brief visits to London, 
of her intense love of music, of the books in the little bookcase I 
had noticed when I first arrived, and how most of them had been 
given her at various times hy friends who had "stayed with us at the 
Falcon." Amongst the photographs on the mantelpiece, one was of a 
small, dark girl, of unmistakably Jewish type, with eyes that seemed 
too large for the delicate features, and far too sad for their youthful- 
ness of line and contour. In its way I had rarely seen a face which 
was at once so interesting, so intellectual, so beautiful, and, alas ! so 
unhappy ; and somehow, after the first subjects of talk had been well 
exhausted, our speech would be apt frequently to turn in the direction 
of the original, and my hostess would tell me all about Amy Levy.^ 
She had come down there ill, it appeared, some two years before, and 

had been nursed — that was a matter of course (Miss nursed 

everybody, if they would in the least give her permission — some- 
times, indeed, when they would not) — and she had been a dweller in 
Bloomsbury all her life, and knew nothing about the country ; and 
my landlady had, in her capacity of nurse, taken her into the woods 
and fields, and down amongst the caves on the Forth, and taught her 
all those strange, hidden trifles of earth, sea, and air which only the 
dwellers in, and lovers of, the country know, and the girl — for she 
was quite a girl then — had taught her instructress — what ? Had 

you asked Miss , she would have told you that there were few 

subjects upon which she had not talked with her patient, and gained 
from her some store of knowledge and thought. 

In the Club the other night by chance I took up a very small, 
quaintly -bound book, entitled Miss Meredith, and turning to the 
title-page, found it was by Amy Levy ; and between the time at 
which I first heard her name in the manner above described, and this 
present time when I read her last work, there had come to her — or 

1 Let me be accurate ; for though my hostess told me much of Miss Levy's charm, Rentle- 
ness, and mteUigence, she seldom spoke of the details of her life. 

138 




^ ° 



w 5 

O i- 

X W 



rather she had brought herself to that terribly strange, sad ending of 
which we all know. . In life I never met her, but during the last six 
or seven years during which she has written, and at the close of 
which she has died, I have always had this pleasant picture of these 
two strangely-assorted women, the dweller in the country and the 
dweller in the town, the undoubting believer and the undoubting 
sceptic, the optimist and the pessimist, the old and the young, the 
Martha of the village inn, and the Mary of the latest developments 
of artistic thought, science, and unbelief, joining together on the 
broad ground of a common humanity, and finding in the silence of 
Cornish woods, and the beauty of Cornish streams and seas, equal 
interest and equal delight— so that I read Miss Meredith as perhaps 
a critic should read every book if he would do entire justice to its 
author — that is to say, with personal sympathy, and a belief that I 
should find the story extremely interesting; and so reading, I did 
find it, not only interesting, but good, delicate, sincere, artistic work 
— marked with strong originality, and full of nascent knowledge, and 
perception which was rather hidden than displayed : a book, in fact, 
conceived from the point of view of art, and adequately carried out 
without weakness, affectation, or advertisement. It is hard that one 
can only say this when it can be productive of no pleasure to the 
author, and when praise or blame are equally futile. 

Indeed I should scarcely have thought of now writing concerning 
Miss Levy's work were it not that I feel that in some measure I 
owe amends to her art. For it so happened, that the opportunity 
came to me some years, ago, was offered me, indeed, by the authoress 
herself, of accepting one of her stories.^ Rightly or wrongly — I 
would fain think wrongly now — I did not consider it up to the 
mark ; and — while asking her to give me a chance upon another 
occasion — rejected it. Let me now therefore do whatever is possible 
to repair my mistake. Works of art are not very common nowadays, 
or indeed at any time, and we are not so glutted with writing of fine 
quality that we can afford to let even little masterpieces pass away 
quite unrecognised. Though it seems to be now agreed that it is 
impolitic and unnecessary personally to honour any great writer who 
can no longer work for us, no one has yet asserted that it is equally 
blamable to endeavour to snatch good work from too early oblivion. 

Miss Meredith is the story of the engagement of an English gover- 
ness by an Italian family, of her sojourn with them at Pisa, and of her 
love affair with the younger son of the house. The materials are there- 
fore sufficiently simple. The story is, in fact — as Lawrence described 
Sword and Gown to be — a chaplet of cameos with sufficient interest 
to string them together. Nor are the characters, with the exception 

^ I was then editing the Universal Review. 



of the heroine, specially interesting or remarkable. Throughout, the 
work is slight, but the slightness is that of intention, not of laziness 
nor incompetence. The especial flavour of the writing lies in the 
author's mastery over her material. This appears alike in the extent 
to which each character is delineated, and the detail which is suggested 
in relation to each part of the story. Nothing can in one sense be 
more realistic than the descriptions of the various scenes and incidents 
of the drama ; and yet the realism is so deftly introduced, so easily 
dropped and taken up again, so interwoven with the thoughts and 
characters of the principal personages, that this accuracy of detail only 
strikes us upon critical examination, and never for one moment arrests 
us in our perusal. The realism is, in fact, that of the best modern 
French painting, in which detail is introduced //^^.y the light it is seen 
in, plus its relative aspect to the scene of which it forms a part. If»I 
did not fear to use a painter's expression, I should say that thQ planes 
of this novel are especially well preserved, and with the single excep- 
tion of one exquisite story by Miss Thackeray,^ I am acquainted with 
no tale, professing to tell the love episode of a girl's life, in which 
emotion and fact are kept so strictly in fociis. Compare, for instance, 
the method of such narrative as that of Cometh up as a Flower, or its 
masculine prototype, As in a Looking-Glass, with .that of Amy Levy 
in Miss Meredith, and it is impossible to avoid noticing the ill-balance 
(despite great literary ability) of the two first-mentioned books. The 
truth is, that love, and its surrounding passions, do not fill up the 
whole or even the major part of any human being's life, even of the 
life of a young girl ; and all books which simply tell the story of the 
heroine's emotional experience, omitting the account of her intellectual 
and physical lives, must infallibly be caricatures of the passion they 
profess to represent. Miss Meredith — who at the crises of her love 
affairs gets tired, or hungry, or angry because she is snubbed, or feels 
the marble floor cold through the threadbare carpets — is a human 
being whom we can understand, and imagine to have possibly existed ; 
and so, too, when she, as it were, frescoes her more intense interest 
with her perceptions of the angularity and ridiculous coiffure of her 
pupil, with irritation at the fussiness of her pupil's mother, and with 
many little sharp commentaries, not in the least emotional or senti- 
mental, and frequently rather ill-tempered, upon the life which is going 
on around her. To write in such a manner as the above, and yet to 
preserve the more ideal portion of the story, and render it in no way 
trivial or commonplace, denotes very high art, and is equivalent in 
fiction to such work as that of Israels in painting — work which is 
apparently homely in subject, and simple in execution, but yet con- 
taining many elements of beauty and pathos, and really the result, 
from a technical point of view, of a complete mastery over its material 
and its method. 

'^ i.e. The Story of Elizaieth. 
140 



I have selected the following passage to exemplify this, not so 
much on account of its being a specially excellent one, as because it 
appears to me to give a fair example of the mingled poetry and 
realism which form the chief charm of Amy Levy's work, and also 
because there is to be found therein something of that intense, 
passionate, almost despairing, personal note which characterised the 
author's habit of mind, and which — in a greater or less degree — is to 
be traced throughout her writing. 



CHAPTER VII.— "THE HOME COMING 
OF THE REBEL." 

THE covered gallery which ran along the back of the house 
was flooded in the afternoon with sunshine. Here, as the 
day declined, I loved to pace, basking in the warmth and 
rejoicing in the brightness, for, mild and clear as the day 
might be out of doors, within the thick -walled palace it was 
always mirk and chill. 

" The long, high wall of the gallery was covered with pictures — 
chiefly paintings of dead and gone Brogi — most of them worth- 
less taken singly, taken collectively interesting as a study of the 
varieties of family types. 

" Here was Bianca, to the life, painted two centuries ago ; the old 
Marchese looked out from a dingy canvas three hundred years 
old at least, and a curious mixture of Romeo and his sister 
disported itself in powder amid a florid eighteenth-century family 
group. Conspicuous among so much indifferent workmanship 
hung a genuine Bronzino of considerable beauty, representing a 
young man, whose charming aspect was scarcely marred by his 
stiff" and elaborate fifteenth-century costume. The dark eyes of 
this picture had a way of following one up and down the gallery 
in a rather disconcerting manner ; already I had woven a series 
of little legends about him, and had decided that he left his 
frame at night like the creatures in Ruddygore to roam the 
house as a ghost where once he had lived as a man. 

" Opposite the pictures, on which they shed their light, was a row 
of windows, set close together deep in the thick wall, and rising 
almost to the ceiling. They were not made to open, but through 
their numerous and dingy panes I could see across the roofs of 
the town to the hills, or down below to where a neglected bit of 
territory, enclosed between high walls, did duty as a garden. 

" In one corner of this latter stood a great ilex tree, its massive grey 
trunk old and gnarled, its blue-green foliage casting a wide 
shadow. Two or three cypresses, with their broom-like stems, 

141 



sprang from the overgrown turf, which, at this season of the 
year, was beginning to be yellow with daffodils, and a thick 
growth of laurel bushes ran along under the walls. An empty 
marble basin approached by broken pavement, marked the site 
of a forgotten fountain, the stonecrop running riot about its 
borders ; the house -leek thrusting itself every now and then 
through the interstices of shattered stone. Forlorn, uncared 
for as was this square of ground, it had for me a mysterious 
attraction ; it seemed to me that there clung to it through all 
change of times and weathers something of the beauty in 
desolation which makes the charm of Italy. 

" It was about four o'clock on Thursday afternoon, and I was 
wandering up and down the gallery in the sunshine. 

" I was alone for the first time during the last three days, and was 
making the best of this brief respite from the gregarious life to 
which I saw myself doomed for some time to come. The 
ladies were out driving, paying calls, and making a few last 
purchases for the coming festivities. In the evening Andrea 
was expected, and an atmosphere of excitement pervaded the 
whole household. 

" ' They are really fond of him, it seems,' I mused — ' these people 
who, as far as I can make out, are so cold.' Then I leaned 
my forehead disconsolately against the window, and had a 
little burst of sadness all by myself. 

" The constant strain of the last few days had tired me, I longed 
intensely for peace, for rest, for affection, for the sweet and 
simple kindliness of home. 

" I had even lost my interest in the coming event which seemed 
to accentuate my forlornness. 

" What were other people's brothers to me ? Let mother or one 
of the girls come out to me, and I would not be behindhand in 
rejoicing. ' No one wants me, no one cares for me, and I don't 
care for any one either,' I said to myself gloomily, brushing 
away a stray tear with the back of my hand. Then I moved 
from the window and my contemplation of the ilex tree, and 
began slowly pacing down the gallery, which was getting fuller 
every minute of the thick golden sunlight. 

" But suddenly my heart seemed to stop beating, my blood froze, 
loud pulses fell to throbbing in my ears, I remained rooted to 
the spot with horror, while my eyes fixed themselves on a 
figure, which, as yet on the further side of a shaft of moted 
sunlight, was slowly advancing towards me from the distant 
end of the gallery. 

" ' Is it the Bronzino come to life ?' whispered a voice in the back 
recess of my consciousness. The next moment I was laughing 
at my own fears, and was contemplating with interest and 

142 



astonishment the very flesh-and-blood presentment of a modern 

gentleman, which stood bowing before me. 
"'I fear I have startled you,' said a decidedly human voice, 

speaking in English, with a peculiar accent, while the speaker 

looked straight at me, with a pair of dark eyes that were 

certainly like those of the Bronzino. 

Oh, no ; it was my own fault for being so stupid,' I answered 

breathlessly, shaken out of my self-possession. 
'"I am Andrea Brogi,' he said, with a little bow; 'and I believe 

I have the pleasure of addressing Miss Clarke ? ' " 

The situation in the above, it will be observed, is not specially 
original. We have all read something like this before, when the 
hero that is to be, comes down the long gallery and startles the 
heroine with his likeness to one of his ancestors' portraits. But it is 
redeemed from the commonplace by the brisk, slight manner in 
which the episode is touched, and the fulness of personal feeling with 
which what may be called the mechanism of the scene is informed. 
Few things could be better in their way than the little paragraph 
describing the negkcted bit of territory, enclosed between high 
walls, which did duty as a garden. That paragraph seems to me 
to hit the exact mean between ordinary conventional description and 
the too elaborate word-painting which has been of late in fashion. 
There is just the suggestion of poetry, of romance, of feeling, but it 
does not elaborate the first, magnify the second, or exhaust the third. 
You have the bit of territory plainly before you, and as Miss 
Meredith saw it, and there the matter is happily, easily left to take 
its right place in the picture. Besides which, a writer may be 
pardoned for remarking that the mere mechanism of these few 
sentences is completely satisfactory. There clung to it through all 
change of times and weathers — no one who was not a good work- 
man would have written that phrase, no one who had not an ear for 
the beauty of words and their fitting collocation. 

Here again is another little piece of word-music : 

" ' They are really fond of him it seems,' I mused — ' these people 
who, as far as I can make out, are so cold.'" 

Nothing can be less pretentious. The phrasing is almost bald in 
its intense simplicity and the naturalness of its expression, but as 
the words fall slowly one by one they have a strange, deliberate 
music of their own. The end of the little sentence completes the 
sound. We listen for it as for the final splash with which a pebble 
reaches the water, after springing from rock to rock down the face of 
a precipitous cliff. Here again, within four lines of the last quotation, 
is another instance of the same merit : / longed intensely for peace, 

143 



for rest, for affection, for the sweet and simple kindliness of home. 
And here we get, not only the incisive, completed music of the 
previous sentence, but the fuller, gentler tone wholly in accord with 
the sentiment expressed. The old test after all is the best, and try 
these sentences by it — namely, by the endeavour to substitute a 
synonym for any of the words used, or by altering the arrangement 
of those which the author has selected. 

To pass to another matter, and to one of more interest to the 
general reader than this of mere craftsmanship, let us ask what is 
the one essential, vital characteristic of our author's writing ? What 
is it that separates that writing from the work of her contemporaries 
and her predecessors ? And here I find myself, not for the first 
time, on very delicate ground. The English habit of mind is so 
little accustomed to discriminate between art and personality, so 
little accustomed to excuse any research into a writer's or a painter's 
personal motives or feelings, that criticism which seeks to penetrate 
the secret of these, is but too frequently esteemed impertinent, even 
if it be not mistaken. Especially in the present instance am I, from 
the circumstances of the case, extremely anxious to avoid causing 
the slightest vexation to any living friend or relative of the author of 
Miss Meredith. And yet, when so much has been said in praise, it 
would be neither just, nor, in the long-run, kind, to hesitate to mark 
the note which appears to the present writer to be out of tune in the 
general harmony. That such a note does exist is beyond question, 
and it is traceable alike in Miss Levy's poetry and her prose. 
Perhaps the most easy definition of what is lacking would be to 
characterise the author's habit of mind as a pessimistic one, 
pessimist not only with regard to the expectations to be formed from 
the circumstances of life, and from the actions, and with regard to 
the motives of others, but the far deeper pessimism which not only 
doubts, but scarcely regrets the absence of, any deep-seated happi- 
ness, or possible sufficient good. The conjecture, the observation, 
the thought, the pathos, and the humour, which are found so subtly 
and skilfully blended in Miss Levy's work, are perhaps all, if care- 
fully examined, a litrie thin, and more than a little hard. One can 
hardly imagine that this writer would have been an easier person to 
live with, than she found the world an easy place to live in ; and 
finding it very difficult, having perception and knowledge and 
intuitive feeling sufficient to perceive its incongruities, to estimate 
its difficulties, and to gauge its sorrow, she does not seem to 
have arrived at that further stage which renders such an experience 
possible despite its sadness — the stage in which the recognition of 
sorrow and pain turns freely, if not gladly, to action, which seeks to 
lighten the one and decrease the other. Indeed, if we are not very 
much mistaken, Miss Levy's habitual intellectual aspect towards men, 

144 



women, and things in general, was not unlike that other celebrated 
one which characterised Mr. Gedge, the landlord of the Royal Oak, 
who found all his customers in the country village in which he lived 
a poor lot, sir, big and little, and who, when he removed to a large 
manufacturing town, was still followed by the same bitter experience, 
and the most notable point in Reuben Sachs, at all events: the point 
which struck the present writer most clearly, was the detachment of 
mind which allowed its young Jewish author to write, not exactly so 
bitterly, but with such absolute indifference, about the national and 
social characteristics and peculiarities of her own people. There 
was something positively inhuman in such work proceeding from 
the lips of one who was scarcely more than a girl, and it seemed to 
show not so much the result of bitter experience and thwarted effort, 
as a preconceived determination to see the seamy side — a deliberate 
attempt to banish from her work every gentle prejudice and kindly 
affection which might have pleaded for a softer judgment. As is not 
infrequently the case, the result of this determined, self-conscious 
impartiality, was to produce the very bias against which such strict 
precaution had been taken. 

For fortunately it is just as easy to err on the pessimist as on the 
optimist side of things, and if we set out very determinedly to make 
no allowance for sympathy or sentiment, to suspect our own 
emotions as well as those of others, and analyse to the utmost 
possible degree our perceptions and our prejudices, we are very apt 
to end by failing to see the use and attractiveness of sympathy, 
feeling, or sentiment at all, and very apt to doubt whether one per- 
ception or prejudice is not much the same as another, equally true 
for the people, useful for the magistrate, and false for the philo- 
sopher ; and so feeling, or at least so arguing — for some imperfection 
of kindliness in thought and action is apt to linger with the most 
cynical — there is apt to grow upon us that detachment of mind 
which is, beyond all other qualities, the most fatal possession for the 
story-teller. In the long run, readers will pardon all else but 
superiority, and, strange as it may seem, an author is not at liberty, 
qud the general reader, to treat his characters, or rather the emotions 
and experiences of his characters, with utter indifference ; all else he 
may do to and with them — plunge them into the most utter misery, 
or reward them with a happiness such as few of us have the luck to 
experience outside the covers of a book. But it is quite imperative, 
if the author is to retain any hold upon his readers' sympathies, that 
he should feel with the people he has created. So truly is this the 
case, that if we read the lives of the great story-tellers, we find 
that almost in proportion to their greatness, was the sense of 
responsibility towards their dramatis personce, and their concern for 
what was to happen to them in the pages as yet unwritten. It is an 
u 145 



interesting chapter in the history of literature, this which tells us 
how one by one, in many ages and many lands, the romancers fell 
under the spell of their own creations ; and while the world stood 
waiting to know how Becky Sharp would deceive her husband, 
whether Paul Dombey would die, or what was to be the final 
incident in Jean Valjean's pitiful history, Thackeray, Dickens, and 
Hugo were sitting in their working- rooms in London and at Paris, 
more interested than their youngest reader in the final catastrophe 
of treachery, death, and suffering, of which they were slowly working 
out the incidents. Much of the change which has come over fiction 
of late years seems to me to be connected with this loss of interest, 
this lack of responsibility and credence in the author, towards his 
story and his characters. One belief has been substituted for 
another. The writer of to-day believes in himself where he once 
believed in his people ; and for such a faith he has the appropriate 
reward, for if readers concern themselves with him at all, it is with 
hini personally, and not the folk whom he creates. Many of us 
in the old days sorrowed with Sidney Carton or Colonel Newcome, 
with that kindly, personal sorrow that we feel when those who are 
really near to us suffer ; but who would dream of being pitiful to the 
dissected personalities who walk about without any of their seven 
skins in Mr. Howells' stories, or to those of glorified country squires 
who drag their elephant rifles and dress waistcoats through trails of 
blood, and hordes of howling savages, in quest of buried treasure 
or forgotten cities ? We feel that to sympathise with such heroes 
as these would be certainly futile and probably impertinent. We 
can imagine them saying, Dorit know you! to any proffer of 
sympathy or comprehension. And, in a lesser degree but still 
markedly, this change is manffest even in stories such as Miss 
Meredith, which may be said to be in a measure built on the 
old model, and in which analysis is still restrained within reasonable 
limits, and the vagaries of filibustering romance are not substituted 
for more accustomed and genuine sources of interest. Miss 
Meredith's story, cleverly, suggestively, prettily, as it is told, is 
nevertheless told with the author's sense of its slight importance 
leaking out in nearly every line. There is a flavour of scorn in the 
telling of each incident. 

After all, however, it is by Reuben Sacks that Miss Levy's work 
will be most fitly and finally judged. This is her most important 
book, and is moreover the story which contains her most elaborate 
studies of character and her most ambitious writing. And Reuben 
Sachs is, despite all its power and originality, a disappointing book. 
The divorce of sympathy between the author and the characters 
depicted, is complete and manifest, and is forced upon us at every 
turn in the narrative. A few touches of kindliness there are indeed 

146 



here and there, m the delineation of the heroine, Judith Quixano, 
but for scarcely another character throughout the book is there a 
good word said unaccompanied by a sneer or a criticism, and one 
especial trick of thought is continually recurring, which to the 
present writer greatly militates against the enjoyment of the story. 
This is Miss Levy's habit of setting down any unamiable peculi- 
arity of one of her characters which she may have to notice as 
a tribal peculiarity or Jewish characteristic, or some similar phrase 
which drives home, as it were, against her own people, the general 
accusation, by means of the individual instance. Throughout the 
narrative is kept up this continual harping on the unamiable, vulgar, 
or sordid traits of the Jewish race, till at last one feels inclined to 
say pettishly, "Why can't the woman leave her ' people ' alone, and if 
she sees nothing worthy of admiration in the Jewish community, go 
elsewhere for the subject-matter of her story ? " Not that the author's 
accusations, complaints, or criticisms strike us as much exaggerated 
or unjust, but that so evidently she was not the right person to 
say them ; and their continual recurrence is an error in art, as 
well as taste, for reasons which are sufficiently obvious. The truth 
is that Miss Levy's dissatisfaction had a far deeper root than dislike 
to Semitic usages and peculiarities. The whole note of Reuben 
Sachs is one of depression, of disgust with, or rather of distaste 
for life; especially for ordinary middle-class uneventful life, with 
its timid proprieties, conventional pleasures, and unaspiring ideals. 
Despite these and other drawbacks of a similar kind, Reuben Sachs 
must be counted as a remarkable tour de force for a young author, 
if only because of the breadth of character-drawing, of the numerous 
slight yet vivid sketches of various types introduced therein, and 
of the ease with which the teller of the story stage-manages her 
dramatis personce, and conveys to the reader the sense of reality 
both in them and their surroundings. There are few cleverer 
passages in latter-day fiction than that which describes the dinner- 
party in Portland Place after the fasting of the Day of Atonement. 
Not only is it good in humour and in varied penetration into the 
varied idiosyncrasies of the numerous people who take part therein, 
but the author has contrived to preserve the drama, the current 
of her story, in a most subtle, skilful manner. We feel the on-coming 
tragedy gradually revealing itself through the commonplace utter- 
ances of Mr. Bertie Lee- Harrison, through the descriptions of Aunt 
Rebecca and Uncle Samuel, through the squabbles of the children, 
through even the silence of the heroine. Twice or thrice in later 
portions of the book, the uneventful story rises almost to the level 
of tragedy. The heroine loves and is loved by a man whose 
ambition and common sense are stronger than hjs passion, and 
having to choose between what is most prudent for his future 
political career, and what is most pleasant and ideal to his own 

147 



perception, he chooses without hesitation, and almost without regret, 
the path of practicality and worldly wisdom, and the heroine scarcely 
blaAies him. She recognises as clearly as himself his right to do 
what is best from the world's point of view, and scarcely allowing 
him time, to decide, much less to repent of his decision, she allies 
herself to a small, estimable, polite, and well-connected gentleman, 
who can give her a comfortable home, and who will not expect 
from her any especial devotion. So the hero Reuben Sachs gets 
elected to his constituency, and his sweetheart marries her slight 
Sir Robert with his watery smile and educated whisker, and the 
former duly sticceeds in the House, and the latter lives comfortably 
enough we are led to suppose, or at all events quietly enough, in 
a flat at Albert Hall Mansions, till one day suddenly her husband 
tells her at dinner, just before the start for some evening reception, 
that Reuben Sachs is dead : 

"It was the first time for some weeks that they had dined alone 

together, and conversation did not flow freely. 
" Bertie looked up again, fixing his eyes, not on her face, but on 

the row of pearls at her throat. 
" ' My dear, you will be very much shocked.' 
" 'Yes ?' said Judith interrogatively, eating her soup. 
" ' Reuben Sachs is dead.' 

" ' It is not true,' said Judith — and then she actually smiled. . . . 
" ' . . . cardiac disease was the immediate cause of his death — 

cardiac disease,' repeated Bertie, with mournful enjoyment of 

the phrase, and pulling a long face as he spoke. 
"Judith, sitting there like an automaton, eating something that 

tasted like sawdust, something that was difficult to swallow, 

was vividly conscious of only this — that Bertie must be silenced 

at any cost. Anything else could be borne, but not Bertie's 

fluent regrets. 
" Another woman would have fainted : there had never been any 

mercy for her : but at least she would not sit there while Bertie 

talked of it. 
" So she lifted up her face, her stony face, and turned the current 

of his talk. 



" He had gone at last, and she stood there motionless by the 
mantelpiece, staring at the card for Lady Kemys' 'At home.' 

" ' Infinite seons' seemed to divide the present moment from that 
other moment, half an hour ago, when she had told herself 
carelessly, indifferently, that she would meet Reuben that night. 

"It struck her now that all the sorrow of her life, all the suffering 

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she had undergone would be wiped out, would be as nothing, 
if only she could indeed meet Reuben — could see his face, 
hear his voice, touch his hand. Everything else looked trivial, 
imaginary ; everything else could have been forgotten, forgiven; 
only this thing could never be forgiven him, this inconceivable 
thing — that he was dead. 

" Before the great mysteries of life her soul grew frozen and 
appalled. 

" It seemed to her, as she sat here in the fading light, that this 
is the bitter lesson of existence : that the sacred serves only 
to teach the full meaning of sacrilege; the beautiful of the 
hideous ; modesty of outrage ; joy of sorrow ; life of death." 

So with a little paragraph hinting at hope for Judith in the future, 
through the germ of another life which was even then quickening 
within her, the book ends. — ^With all its faults of temper, of taste, 
of exaggerated requirement from, and too facile discontent with life 
— a strong book, full of genuine if mistaken thought, full of keen 
perception and minutely accurate observation. Full, too, of — bathed 
in as it were — ^that atmosphere of personal feeling by which works 
of art alone really exist ; for though the author is superficially 
scornful enough of the puppets she has created, and the people 
whose shortcomings she sees so clearly, she is nevertheless at heart 
not scornful at all, but only simply, passionately, almost childishly 
angry with the deficiencies and inconsistencies of life. An idealist 
who has missed her way, she would fain be pessimistic, fain be 
matter-of-fact, but the effort is palpably insincere, and is but the 
reaction from the qualities which she professes to despise. 

In view of what occurred subsequently, these last words which 
we have quoted from Reuben Sacks seem to have been inspired 
by some sinister presentiment, and to point to the frame of mind 
which rendered it possible for a young and lovely girl in the first 
flush of her genius and renown, to quit a life whose contrasts she 
found unbearable, and whose lesson too bitter for endurance. 



149 




THE UNFASHIONABLE ART OF ENGLAND. 

OIV when it was too late I saw the folly of sitting 
down to build before counting the cost,s&vdi. Robinson 
Crusoe on a certain memorable occasion, and the 
words come home to me to-day most painfully. For 
to write truly, frankly, and usefully of the Art of 
England to-day, many unpleasant things must be 
said or hinted, many deficiencies and errors dwelt upon which are 
habitually glossed over with flattering phrase, or allowed to linger in 
that kindly obscurity where they may almost pass for merits. There is, 
indeed, at the present time much that is rotten in the state of our 
Art, arid in the conduct of those who are most intimately connected 
therewith, though upon this latter point I do not in this article 
propose to enter ; and there is, to the best of my belief, no hope of 
reform whilst the present fashions of interested puffery, audacious 
advertisement, ignorant patronage, and ill-informed and partial 
criticism remain in force. For many years I have been to. a con- 
siderable extent behind the scenes of the art world ; the dealer, the 
patron, the artist, the critic have all been known to me, and I have 
watched the influence which one has exerted upon the other, and the 
extent to which that influence has been to the public advantage, or 
to the benefit of the art itself Above all I have noted, with an 
increasing conviction of the harm which is done thereby both to the 
man and his work, the method in which fashion has of recent years 
determined not only the reward, but the direction of painting ; and 
the result, easily to be predicted from the first, of the gradual dis- 
appearance of the older aims and qualities of English art in the 
endeavour of artists to satisfy this new, capricious, and exacting 
mistress, who, like a new Eve, has lately brought to many a poor 
painter, her golden forbidden fruit of luxury, notoriety, and self- 
indulgence. 

The essence of Art is to be eternal, and the essence of Fashion is 

150 



to change. How can there be true alliance between these two? 
What has Fashion to do with that secluded inner country of the 
heart and spirit ? — what even with that harvest of the quiet eye from 
and in which the power and the beauty of art proceed ? What is 
right to-day, was wrong yesterday, and will be wrong again to-morrow : 
so says the arbiter elegantiarum in all ages. What is right to-day, 
was right yesterday, and will be right for ever : so speaks, and must 
always speak, the artist. What hope, then, can we have of obtaining 
a good art if it is to change daily in obedience to the dictates of the 
hour ? And yet this is what English painting has been doing since 
the so-called art revival, and what it is doing more than ever to-day. 
And, blinded as we all are by the attractiveness of things which are 
new and progressive, and exactly in accordance not only with the 
taste of the moment but with the spirit of change which modifies all 
the thoughts and actions of this restless day, it is scarcely to be 
wondered at that ordinary picture-seers and the public at large do 
not notice the gradual disappearance from our pictures of what may 
be called their distinctively English peculiarities. For the change, 
it must be well remembered, is gradual, and we live in the midst of 
the current with little opportunity for pause and quiet examination. 

We shall have in the later articles of this series occasion to consider 
at some length the various developments, methods, and manners 
which the influence of society and the increase of attention given to 
artistic concerns by the nation at large have brought into being ; but 
in order to do this to the best advantage, it seems to me necessary 
in this preliminary article to speak a little about some phases of 
painting, and thought and life as expressed in painting, which were 
well known to our fathers, and which, in fact, gave to them all the 
pleasure which they derived from pictures. There is always some 
probability that the art which has gradually grown up in any 
given country, which has shaped itself as it were out of the needs and 
aspirations, prejudices and beliefs of the people, will have some real 
affinity with the national characteristics, will supply, in however 
partial a manner, some want which is felt on that particular portion of 
the earth and at that particular time. For national styles and 
methods of painting are merchandise which cannot be sent by Parcels 
Post, no matter how secure the package, which do not bear trans- 
portation, and to which, in a new sense, the old Latin proverb may 
be applied, caelum non dnimum mutant qui trans mare currunt. For 
not only the physical world,* but its mental counterpart is different in 
France and England, Italy and Germany. The attempt to make an 
Englishman see after the same fashion as a Gaul, is hopeless, unless 
you can first make him feel in the Gallic spirit. The death of Art 
in all ages has been eclecticism ; the attempt to combine all excellencies 
has always resulted in such works as were produced by the Bolognese 

151 



School, works essentially nugatory, and bearing the same relation to 
great art as the Encyclopcedia Britannica bears to great literature. 

Whatever is true about fine art, there is no doubt but that it 
always results from the desire to express primarily some one thing, 
not from the desire to express all things equally. The great artist is 
a man whose imagination is exceptionally aroused by this or that 
beauty of natural fact or spiritual consciousness. He is not a man 
who sets to work with the precision of a mathematical instrument, to 
work out a problem in colour and form. This is not to say that the 
artist never acts in the above manner ; on the contrary, he does so 
habitually — it is a part of his business, of his artistic education. But 
all such work pertains only to the mechanics of his profession, and 
though perfection of technique will greatly increase his native artistic 
faculty, it is by no means the essential circumstance by which that 
faculty takes its rank. Extreme sensitiveness, whether of the mind 
or eye, may easily be injured by the attempt to force the eye to see 
or the mind to sympathise with sights, methods, or ideas which have 
for that special individual no attraction, nay, which are perhaps in 
themselves inconsistent with the exertion to the utmost of his 
individual power ; and instances are by no means rare of artists who 
have, so to speak, educated themselves into sterility, and whose 
work, delightful despite its imperfection in youth, has become, with 
fuller accomplishment, uninteresting, colourless, and weak. And if 
this be the case with individuals, the theory is even more true when 
it has to be applied to nations, for all national arts have a peculiar 
idiosyncratic flavour, are all partizan speeches which can only be 
justified from one point of view. 

The question may be asked why, even granting the above to be 
true, should it not be possible for the painters of one country to 
adopt without loss of power the discoveries, improvements, and even 
the habitual technical methods of another. The reason can only be 
briefly indicated here, for the inability depends not only on the 
education of the eye being different in every country of the world, 
but on the fact that, while the actual physical details seen by the 
eye are in themselves different in, say, England and France, all the 
mental prepossessions which help to make up our conscious sight are 
also various according to training and nationality. Thus the grass 
is not only of a different colour in France from that which it is in 
England, the whole effect of atmosphere greyer and cooler, but even 
if these things were the same they would not look so to a French 
and English eye. To which chief reason may be added that life is 
very short, and the acquirement of even one method of painting so 
supremely difficult, and the carrying out of that method in the 
special direction which any given painter may choose is a matter of 

152 



such long duration, and needs such single and Undivided effort, that 
if the artist's time is taken up by the search for alien forms of 
practice and methods of interpretation, he is likely to find his whole 
attention absorbed in this formula-swallowing, and never to get any 
time to do his real business in the world, which is simply to express 
himself. 

The more one knows of the history of art, and the more one 
studies the works of great artists, the more clearly we see that the 
latter are great, not because, but for the most part despite, of their 
methods. Of their methods, yes — and even of their materials. It 
hardly matters whether they work on paper or canvas, with chalk or 
brush, or pencil or pen and ink, whether they model in clay or carve 
their marble, or hammer iron into lace-work, as in the old days of 
Nuremberg and Verona ; whether they put their fancies on tile or 
glass, or build them into mountains of stone, as in the days of 
Egypt, or carve them on the living rock amidst the jungles of India 
or Assyrian caves. Everywhere we find methods and materials 
varied and imperfect; everywhere, too, we find, save in work 
which has no interest, faults and deficiencies which the child of a 
future age can point out. But everywhere, too, we discover the 
universal truth of this law, that the artistic spirit is greater than any 
imperfection of form, or any deficiency of knowledge, so that if your 
Michael Angelo knew so little about anatomy as to give his statues 
any imaginable disproportion, the work would still maintain its hold 
upon us so long as he communicated to it that strenuousness of 
spirit, that power, grandeur, and impressiveness which are insepar- 
ably linked with his name. This is no mere theory, but actual 
indisputable fact ; and can be proved as such by a thousand in- 
stances. We have all heard of Michael Angelo's David, and how 
the lack of proportion therein (for the head and torso are far too 
large for the lower limbs), was caused by the sculptor's haste. He 
is said to have set to work without measurement on an enormous 
block of marble, and in his haste to have made the upper portion 
of the body on so large a scale that the block was of insufficient 
size to complete the statue in due proportion. It is rather a 
pleasant story this of the big sculptor chipping away with all the 
eagerness of an art student, but the point of it in regard to our 
argument is that, despite the manifest error, the statue remains to 
this day of undisputed magnificence as a work of art. In the same 
way a nation's art may be more perfect in imperfection than in 
excellence, if it possesses the essential qualities of the nation's life. 
And it is because our art is in some measure losing these qualities 
that I want to say a word in favour of a few of those older painters 
who, whatever may be thought of the range of their knowledge and 
the value of their achievements, were indisputably English in 
feeling, in the character of their subjects, and whose methods grew 
X 153 



up slowly, tentatively, it may even be stupidly, bit by bit, in har- 
mony with the life of their countrymen, and in harmony with the 
traditions of English workmanship. They did not talk much about 
their work, these men : I seem to fancy they did not even thmk 
very much about it : and as to knowledge of the history of 
painting, a student at Girton nowadays might easily have puzzled 
the whole generation. But that they/^/^ it there is now their work 
to witness; and that is, after all, as Paul Bedford used to say, 
" the apparatus which can't lie." 

We have at the present time a very beautiful National Gallery, 
where the works of these men may for the most part not be seen ; 
and in the cellars thereof, lit by what little light Sir Frederick 
Burton and the London fog allow, there exist some two or three 
hundred landscapes by a gentleman called Turner, who in a 
moment of misguided liberality thought that the nation might like 
to look at them, which are without question the finest collection of 
water-colour drawings by a single artist in the whole world, and 
which will one day be perhaps given their right place in the building 
above them. Meantime just consider how ludicrous a thing it is 
for us to go strutting and fretting about our art progress, to spend 
thousands upon thousands in the purchase of old Italian pictures 
which not one in a million Englishmen cares to look at, while 
we cannot even see — not even those of us who are paid a thousand 
a year on the understanding that they have the capacity of seeing 
— that it is a national disgrace to let the masterpieces of the 
greatest English painter, living or dead, moulder away in a half- 
lighted cellar. Italian art, forsooth ! Yes, it is a fine thing if you 
can understand the beauty thereof, and let those who can give 
their ;^7o,ooo for a Raphael, or ;^ 10,000 for a Rubens ; but what 
are those works doing in a National Gallery which is not large 
enough to hold our own people if we had but the sense to hang 
them there ? 

Just think what this means ; just think what real consideration for 
Art it shows ; just think what likelihood there is of the painters of 
any country making real progress and receiving real encouragement 
to do their utmost in the highest forms of art, when they know that 
neither in life nor death will their country recognise their efforts, and 
that, however famous they may become, they will have but small, if 
any, place upon those walls which should be chiefly their own. 

The one branch of painting which is exclusively English is that of 
water-colour. In this branch there have been executed works of 
such beauty and such breadth of achievement that they form, I do 
not hesitate to say, the greatest advance which has been made in 
pictorial art since the days of the Italian Renaissance. The land- 

154 





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THE DUKE OI' GEOUCESTER AND THE iMUmJERERS 

SIR JOHN (Wl.IlKriT, R. A. 

[From the orlgiujl \yatcr colour) 



scapes of Cox, Turner, and De Wint, of Bonington, MuUer, and 
George Barret, Copley Fielding and Nasmyth, of Varley and James 
Holland and Samuel Palmer, the figure and architectural drawings 
of Prout, and old William Hunt, and John Lewis, and Sir John 
Gilbert, ay, and even work executed by Sir Frederick Burton himself 
in his earlier days, form a series of pictures which, in respect of 
quality, are to the best of my belief not to be paralleled in the history 
of painting. 

And yet, incredible as it may seem, there is no place found for 
water-colours in our National Gallery ; they are not even admitted 
(above the basement) as elements in the collection ; for all that the 
visitor to this exhibition sees, the English nation might never have 
boasted of the above-mentioned artists. And if we turn from our 
great national exhibition of the work of deceased artists, to our great 
national exhibition of the works of living ones, we shall find the 
same policy pursued with but little modification. For while oil- 
pictures are hung there in a dozen large galleries, there is but one 
small side -room set apart for the display of water-colours ; and of 
those which are there hung, the majority are not the works of our 
best artists in this medium, but of the second- and third-rate. The 
policy of the Royal Academy towards water-colour has been so 
notorious that nowadays the men who are masters in this branch of 
painting will not submit their works to be treated with the lack of 
consideration which is invariably shown to them. So in the National 
Gallery and Royal Academy alike there is no representation of the 
one branch of art which first arose and grew to final perfection on 
English soil ; and while this is so, and is known to be so, there is no 
one who cares to raise his voice in protest, or to suggest that we owe 
to the work of the great water-colour painters and the honour of 
water-colour art a deep debt of gratitude and recognition. 

Now such neglect and injustice as I have described above do not 
come to pass without producing injurious effects upon the taste of the 
nation, upon the quality of its art workmanship, and upon the bona 
fides of its artists ; and from those effects we are suffering to-day. 
We have chosen to neglect that work which was distinctively Eng- 
lish ; we have allowed the old school of water-colour to sink day by 
day to the level of a forgotten art, and we have as a nation taken no 
pains to cherish the masterpieces which have been produced therein, 
and to hold them up to our younger painters for example and 
encouragement. We have deified oil-painting at the expense of 
more delicate medium colour, and, by that strange irony of fate 
which so often mars our calculations, the result of our action has 
been not only to depress the art which we neglected, but to drag 
down with it that which we exalted. 

Landscape painting in England rose with the rise of water-colour, 

155 



and with the fall of water-colour it is falling. Where forty years a^o 
we had a dozen great landscape artists, for the most part painters in 
the last-mentioned medium, there is not now one great English land- 
scape painter either in water-colour or oil. Unpalatable truth, but 
truth all the same. Let us recognise it, for till we do so there is no 
hope of remedy. 

Most unfortunately I cannot put the actual works of which I am 
speaking into the pages of this review, for could I do so my words 
would need little confirmation. But I would ask those readers who 
think that I have exaggerated the excellence of the last generation 
of English landscape painters, and unduly depreciated the merit of 
contemporary work, to go for themselves to the South Kensington 
Museum, and to (the cellars of) the National Gallery, and look at 
the Coxes, De Wints, Barrets, and Palmers which they will find at 
the former place, and at the Turners in the latter. 

Now note that while water-colour landscape flourished, the oil- 
painting which ran side by side with it not only flourished also, but 
maintained in its own medium, though perhaps not to an equal 
extent, the very qualities which gave the peculiar charm to water- 
colour. These were chiefly the qualities of transparency, delicacy, 
freshness of impression, and one last crowning merit, extremely 
difficult to define briefly, but which I may be perhaps allowed to call 
the impromptu quality : the quality, that is, which produces the 
impression of the painting having been done with ease and certainty. 
If there is one thing more than another peculiar to English land- 
scapes of the great school, it is this, that their artists seem to have 
had no slightest doubt as to the attractiveness of whatever they chose 
to paint. Some of them chose to paint classical landscapes out of 
their head, like George Barret, and most extraordinary productions 
they were, viewed from any standpoint of reason ; but Barret 
painted away at them all his life, apparently with the calmest satis- 
faction ; and he was so true an artist at heart, and had such a keen 
insight into beautiful things, and had so real a devotion towards one 
or two natural facts — as, for instance, the delicate gradations of 
atmosphere, and the all-pervading influence of sunlight — that he 
managed to make even his most impossible temples and imaginary 
landscapes, in one sense real, and in all senses beautiful. Some 
others, and these a great many, simply went out to the nearest field 
or common — and there were plenty of fields and commons in Eng- 
land fifty years ago — and took the first piece of scrubby gorse, or 
gravel pit, or ragged hedgerow which they chanced to find, and with 
that and a few sheep and wide expanse of tumbled clouds they 
made their pictures. It is true that they made pictures : they did 
not think of making them as much as we do nowadays, and their 

156 



scientific and historic knowledge was of course infinitely less ; nor 
do I altogether believe that, with two or three notable exceptions, 
they were naturally greater artists than those we have amongst us 
to-day, but they were artists working more sincerely than the majority 
of modern painters. They were less influenced by the desire of 
making large incomes, they were less cramped by the necessity of 
meeting each vagary of the ever-shifting taste of the moment. Above 
all, they were not men who had learnt to think very much of their 
own performances, and whose art had consequently suffered. 

Some years ago there were two water-colours by David Cox 
sold at Christie's, which fetched between them — I forget the exact 
figures — ^but about four thousand two hundred guineas. And con- 
cerning one of these pictures there was a little history which happens 
to have come into my hands. It seems that when it was first pur- 
chased from Cox he had asked and obtained for the drawing (it was 
a very large water-colour) the enormous sum of ;^8o ; and he had 
been so greatly distressed on thinking the matter over lest the 
purchaser should not have received good value for his money, that 
he wrote to him, and after thanking him greatly for his generosity, 
added at the end of his letter that he took the liberty of sending him 
another small sketch to make up the value of the money he had 
received. We happen to have this letter, and I must confess that it 
seems to me to be one of those simple, honourable, kindly acts of 
which it would not be a bad thing if we still kept up the tradition. 
It points too a tremendous moral, for the frame of mind in which Cox 
wrote and sent that letter and sketch, has in the artistic world perished 
to-day as utterly as if it had never existed. The modern point of 
view is exactly the reverse : a painter nowadays never gets enough 
iqx his work (in his own opinion), and if he be a popular artist, he too 
frequently even approaches his purchaser in what may be called the 
auctioneer spirit, offering his work first of all for a price which he 
knows it is not worth, and which he scarcely even hopes to get, on 
the chance, as was once said to me, of finding a flat. And then if 
the picture be not sold, as it generally is not, at the first-named price, 
the sum asked is two-thirds, then half, then probably a quarter. 
And finally, if none of these values are sufficiently attractive to the 
purchaser, sooner or later the work finds its way to Christie's sale- 
room, and is then sold, roughly speaking, for its actual value. And 
as far as my experience goes, this value averages, except in the case 
of a few of the very best men, from a quarter to a sixth of the price 
at which the artist would first have estimated his work. 

There is little progress that we can perceive in such a state of 
things, and it is very questionable whether the artist is reall)r any 
better off for fluking ;^500 or ;^iooo now and again for a picture 

157 



which is worth ;^50, and raising his expenditure, as he invariably 
does, on the assumption that the fluke will be perpetual. In the old 
days if he only got ;^30 or ^40, he only lived at the rate of ;^300 or 
;^400 per annum, and he lived the life which was best suited to his 
nature, and best suited to make him capable of producing pictures. 

Again, the majority of people hardly understand the various ways 
in which this influence of fashion works to the deterioration of art. 
Consider for a moment the case of a landscape painter who is at the 
present time fashionable, and receiving large prices for his pictures. 
He must not only have a large house in some expensive neighbour- 
hood, and entertain therein, but he must also be "seen about" as the 
phrase is, in order to maintain his vogue. Where Society goes, he 
must go also, and at the same time ; and in order to sell for those 
large sums of money he must appeal to a very limited class, and a 
class who are accustomed to have all their conventions and prejudices 
consulted to the utmost possible degree ; moreover, to a class who 
for the most part lead artificial, unwholesome town lives, and whose 
predilections therefore are likely to be for unwholesome artificial 
town art. The simplicity of subject which marked the earlier painting 
of which I have been speaking, would have little attraction for the 
fashionable picture buyer, either then or now, and, since the painter 
now bows to Society, to the fashionable picture buyer he must appeal. 
What do we find ? Look round the Royal Academy and say how 
many pictures there are in which a plain, simple English sentiment 
has been the motive of the artist's work ; and then look round and 
compare with the few you have been able to discover, the multitudinous 
representations in which artificiality, either of dress or sentiment, 
plays the chief part. 

Look at this picture by Mr. G. D. Leslie for an example of that 
older, quieter, truer, and essentially more beautiful style and sentiment 
which used to mark the majority of our pictures even when they were, 
technically speaking, most awkward, most imperfect, and most unin- 
teresting. Life to these two girls, who have opened the window to 
enjoy the sunshine and the fresh air, may not be intensely exciting, 
may be full of rather narrow, uneventful pleasures and pain ; but is it 
possible to look, and not think of them as fresh and clean, 
physically and spiritually, not to be glad that they have a quiet time, 
not to envy a little their youth and innocence and the pleasant natural 
surroundings of their lives ? It seems to me to matter here very little 
whether in this Mr. Leslie has or has not idealised his facts. Perhaps 
even the more honour to him if he has done so ; for it is no small 
honour for a man to have so pure a conception of English maiden- 
hood, and a touch at once so gentle, so firm, and so loving upon the 
little everyday incidents of English life. 

158 



V-- 1 

x 1 



b-_-. 



*• 




4 





■'"^ *' 



•^ 









*'*■-.-„ 



HOME. — G. D. Leslie, r. a. 



Yes ! struggle as hard as we may, each of us is bound to remain, 
Uke Mr. Gilbert's self-righteous hero, an " Englishman," temptations 
to belong to other nations notwithstanding. And so why should not 
our art be as essentially English as ourselves ? Indeed it must be, if 
we hide it with as many fanciful foreign clothes as it takes to make 
Mr. Beerbohm Tree into Sir John Falstaff. And as in that clever 
personation, the clothes will never seem to quite belong to the body, 
but be carried about by it more or less uneasily. 

Perhaps the great secret of Sir John Millais' popularity lies in 
his recognition, possibly his unconscious recognition, of the above. 
His pictures have, beyond and above all other qualities, this English 
quality, and they appeal to all classes for that very reason. A sort 
of personal affection for this painter, as well as for his pictures, 
obtains with very many people who have never set eyes upon him ; 
he is in touch with them mentally and spiritually, and his little 
maidens with bird's-nests and brooms, spiders, violets, or caller- 
herrin', by whatever fanciful name they may be called, please from 
their purely human quality even more than by their skill. And at 
an early period of his career Sir John Millais, then little more than 
a boy, did a large number of drawings for the illustration of 
Anthony TroUope's novels, which not only showed him at his very 
best, but remain to this day the most perfect presentment which has 
ever been given by art of the character and the appearance, and 
what may be called the local colour, of England and the English 
people. Doubtless some of this achievement was owing to the 
nature of the stories illustrated {Framley Parsonage, Orley Farm, 
and The Small House at Allington), and the perfect reciprocity of 
feeling between the artist and the author, but when all this is 
allowed for, the perfect kindliness, grace, simplicity, and strength of 
these drawings are most admirable. The extent to which they 
reflect that decency of ordered life, that modesty of demeanour, 
that fearless purity and absolute innocence which are, or at least 
were, the ideals of English girlhood, is almost beyond belief; and 
if we pass from the mental and moral aspect of the drawings to 
their technical qualities, we find a most fitting correspondence 
between the means employed and the effect produced. The execu- 
tion is extremely simple and straightforward; the whole attempt 
is to give the very kernel of the selected incident ; the representa- 
tion of the scene seems to have been the only idea in the artist's 
mind. And with this singleness of intention there has come — how, 
who shall say? — such grace of gesture, such dignity of form, such 
appropriateness and delicacy of hinted or wrought -out detail, as 
would be hard to parallel, impossible to surpass. Lily Dale and 
Lucy Robarts are no dearer and sweeter in TroUope's printed pages, 
than as Millais has shown them us in the old garden at Allington 

159 



or in the "Framley Parsonage"; and as for Johnnie Eames and 
Crosbie, without the painter's help their characters would be but 
half understood. 

Mr. Luke Fildes is another artist who, though in a far inferior 
degree to Sir John Millais, showed a similar capacity in illustration, 
and the spirit of whose painting has remained wholly national. 
His Venetian women, of whom he paints so many, are transparently 
of British origin, and wear their coloured robes fresh from a laun- 
dress in the Huston Road. They are far too clean, too buxom, 
too fresh and unsophisticated for the Venetian flower-girls they 
represent, and suggest the character of such women even less than 
they reproduce their exterior. If we want a Venetian subject- 
picture which shall be veritable, we must get Van Haanen or some 
other foreigner to paint it for us, or be content with merest carica- 
ture of reality. 

It is strange, however, to notice how strongly our aesthetic ideas 
are setting nowadays in the direction of the reproduction of foreign 
methods, subjects, and ideas. An awful horror of being thought 
British, seems to have seized upon our artists, and with the excep- 
tion of that large class who confine their efforts to the nursery, and 
the denizens thereof, I can hardly remember one popular Academi- 
cian who does not seek either his subjects, or his method of treating 
them, across the sea. Look, for instance, at Mr. Marcus Stone, 
who one would think should be national enough if he gave his 
idiosyncrasies fair play. He paints us English lovers in English 
gardens, but he does it in such a way, with such accessories of big 
hats and feathers. Empire dresses, painted furniture, and general 
bric-a-brac, as to render his compositions akin to an opera boufife. 
Then there is Mr. Phil Morris, who is patriotic enough at heart, 
and has in bygone days done many deliciously dreamy pictures 
of idealised rustic life, but who now has become so entirely fascin- 
ated by the clothes which people, and especially babies, wear, 
that he almost forgets there is any kind of humanity beneath them. 
Mr, Orchardson has an excuse, for he is, if I mistake not, half a 
Frenchman by birth, but even he has given up to furniture and 
architecture a good deal of what was meant for mankind, and will 
only allow us now and then to perceive how great is his power of 
depicting human feeling. 

As a little contrast to this art of the rich, look at the picture 
by the late Paul Falconer Poole, R.A., of The Sisters.^ In it three 
qualities speak for themselves — simplicity, grace, and naturalness ; 
but though all the facts of the scene are here rendered truly and 
clearly, yet the work has besides these merits a touch of style 
which quite justifies it as a work of art; and it is just this last- 
mentioned quality which is gradually disappearing from English 

* On the opposite page. 
1 60 



painting. Our artists are getting into a habit of dull realism with 
regard to the outside of the matters with which their pictures are 
concerned, and seem to think that if only technical qualities are 
sufficiently thorough, all else can be dispensed with. Composition, 
too, is growing day by day more rare ; the pre-Raphaelites uncon- 
sciously struck it a hard blow in their search for certain essential 
qualities which they thought the attention given to composition 
had tended to obscure ; and the influence of the later French art, 
and its devotees of value and impressionism, has helped to complete 
the work. A few men like Sir Frederick Leighton and Mr. 
Orchardson still make a study of composition, but, for the most part, 
it has ceased to be cared for or greatly sought, and no small propor- 
tion of the decrease of dignity and interest which is notable in 
English painting at the present time is due to this fact. 

Yet it may be doubted whether great landscape painting is possible 
without the elenient of composition entering very largely into the 
scheme of the painter. Certainly no great landscape art in England 
has as yet existed which did not depend almost mainly upon this 
quality. And it would be interesting to show, though I have no 
space here for such a demonstration, how large a share is played by 
this characteristic in the most apparently simple works of Cox and 
De Wint. Cox especially was a great master in the art of compos- 
ing landscape ; and there is a large and elaborate water-colour of 
his, of " .^neas approaching Carthage," which is as elaborate in this 
respect as Turner's more famous picture in the National Gallery.^ 
Indeed, at one period there is no doubt that Cox studied most care- 
fully not only Turner but Claude, and gained from his acquaintance 
with the latter much of his power in delineating those calm and 
sunny scenes and atmospheres, which at first sight come as a surprise 
to those who only know the rough winds and rainy skies of his usual 
work. A good example of the part rightly played by composition 
in a landscape is to be found in the sea-coast scenes by Richard 
Bonington, and still better ones in the classical landscapes of 
Richard Wilson and George Barret. This last is indeed the most 
conventional of all our older water-colour painters ; but he is also 
one of the most delightful : this sounds a paradox, but is neverthe- 
less true. 

On one last point there is a marked change in the oil-painting of 
the present day as compared with that of the earlier half of the 
century, and that is in the absence of finish, in the incompleteness of 
the work offered to the public. Painting (the actual brushwork) has 
become altogether more hurried, more slap-dash, more incomplete. 
It is no uncommon thing to find even in an Academy picture, portions 

1 "Dido building Carthage." 
Y l6l 



of the composition left in entirely different states as regards the actual 
handling of the paint : you may even notice portions which have not 
been painted at all. No doubt there are several reasons for this, 
which, to some extent, excuse the alteration : we live in an age of 
competition and hurry ; and we paint at the highest of high pressure ; 
and if painters fare more luxuriously than of old, they must do their 
work as quickly as may be ; and if it is sufficiently good to look well 
in the exhibition and to please the patron, there must be a great 
temptation to carry it no farther. But still, making all allowances 
for our different civilisation, we might fairly expect a greater propor- 
tion of completed work from our most popular painters than we get 
just now. And it surely should be some inducement to them to give 
us such work if they coftsider that not only have all the great 
masters of former times given it ungrudgingly, but that even in our 
own experience, the paintings on which such labour has been 
bestowed, have brought most enduring fame to their artists, and so 
from even the rough standpoint of pecuniary value the labour has 
been by no means wasted. Finish, rightly understood, is not only a 
grace, but a necessity in a picture. No incomplete thing is really a 
work of art, if its incompletion has arisen from the artist's choice.^ 

It is difficult to speak on this subject without being misunderstood. 
A just-begun sketch might perhaps be called incomplete, and yet 
be wholly free from the deficiency to which I am alluding. And an 
unfinished picture no doubt may be a work of art as far as it goes. 
But the point is this — that the master who deliberately refuses to 
give to one portion of his composition the work which is necessary 
to bring it into entire harmony and consistency with the rest, is 
deliberately falling short of that implied contract which he has made, 
if I may use the expression, with both nature and public. His 
acquired and instinctive knowledge say to him this scene, or this man, 
should be represented in such and such a way ; and if, knowing that, 
he only chooses to partially so represent him, he has committed an 
irredeemable sin, has forfeited his birthright as an artist, and has 
betrayed the trust of the public. And mind this : he has betrayed it 
the more, in proportion as he is a great and popular artist. For to 
such men we come day after day, our minds full of business, our eyes 
full of ugliness, and our hearts full of worries, and we ask them 
silently but sincerely to make us forget the business, to substitute 
beauty for the ugliness, and to quiet the worries with whatsoever 
things they have found or thought to be of noble meaning or lovely 
sight. And we trust them to do this to the utmost of their power, 
and we pay them and honour them because we believe they can and 
will do it. We, so to speak, are not on our guard with them ; but 
they are on their parole with us ; and very many of them certainly 

* Unless the incompletion is part of the artist's meaning, z.%par exemple in a sketch. 

162 




LA MARCHESA 

SIR FREDERICK BURTON 

From the original water colour in possession of the author 
[Preaidcnt of the National Gallery] 



keep their implied contract most thoroughly and loyally. I am proud 
to say that I know several painters, men of extremely moderate 
income, almost if not entirely dependent upon the sale of their work, 
whose chief anxiety is that the picture should be as good as they can 
make it, and who think of that first, and that only, till it is finished. 

I know a great painter, perhaps the greatest now living in England, 
whom I found one day at work on a small canvas of a girl's head. 
It seemed to me the picture (it was a portrait) was one of the most 
beautiful heads that I had ever seen, and I expressed this opinion with 
tolerable frankness ; but the artist's reply rather startled me. After 
thanking me for my courtesy, he said : " I am glad you like the head, 
but it's not right, and what's more, I'm just going to take it out ; I can't 
get the eyes right." I asked him what he meant, and his answer was to 
the effect that he had had the head in and out five times, and couldn't 
get the colour of the' girl's eyes to his satisfaction, and so was going 
.to give up the portrait. And consequently give it up he did, to the 
best of my belief. At all events the picture was never exhibited, 
and I am almost certain never sold.^ 

To those who know what is implied in the above incident it will 
not seem a little thing that a great painter should nowadays so 
frankly confess and struggle so hard to remedy his failure, and 
should finally accept defeat, rather than give to the world what he 
knew or believed to be wrong. And I shall not have written this 
chapter altogether in vain if I can persuade some of those folk who 
have much money to spend upon works of art, to spend it chiefly 
upon such as evidence this desire of perfection ; for, believe me in 
this, if you doubt all else in the present paper, that only in such 
a spirit is fine artistic work produced. You cannot inspire fine 
painting by money, you cannot produce it for money ; and you 
can only encourage it by love and sympathy, and it can only be 
produced by the man who puts his whole heart and mind and 
strength into each portion of his work. 

As some illustration of a painter who did this, look at the picture by 
Mr. Lewis which faces the preceding page, and think of how impossible 
it would be that such labour as has been spent thereon should ever be 
actually paid for in hard cash. The work has been done in such 
fashion because that was the only way in which the artist found it 
possible to carry out all he saw ; and he has been profoundly 
indifferent to the fact that he might have saved himself, in this or 
that detail, so much unremunerated labour. Why, the very patterning 
of the maid's shawl in the picture from which this reproduction has 
been made, is a miracle of patient industry, needing the use of a lens 

^ Years afterwards I saw it in his studio. 
163 



to appreciate ; and a result which, to nine hundred and ninety-nine 
people out of every thousand, would have been equivalent, might 
have been obtained in that portion of the composition for a tithe of 
the labour. Of course there is no necessity for finish to be of this 
missal-painting kind ; I take it only as an extreme instance of con- 
scientiousness in work. For the lack of this conscientiousness is the 
besetting sin of modern English painting ; at least of that portion 
which is nowadays most popular. The elaborate, delicate, dignified 
work of our earlier landscapists, has been succeeded by roughly 
effective sketches, such as those of the Scotch school, or by con- 
ventionally-finished studio paintings, such as those of Mr, Leader, or 
by elaborate, but uninstructive realistic renderings of nature, which 
have no real pretensions to be called pictures ; and the solidity and 
finish of the handiwork itself have to a great extent disappeared. 

The remedy is difficult, and at the present time probably impos- 
sible : it is to be found for the artistic workman in a return to a 
healthier character of life, in the forgetting of the patron and the 
Queen Anne palace, for whom and in which, the painter has lived of 
late, and the return to the two natures from which all the beauty of 
art nas ever sprung — the inner nature of the heart and mind, and the 
outer nature of the visible physical world. Not in dress, not in drama, 
not in imitation of this or that passing fashion ; not in seeking to please 
any special class, or in seeking to delineate any special kind of subject, 
is his salvation to be found ; but in opening the mind and eye to the 
truths which he alone can discover, the beauties which he alone can 
feel, and the real pathos and interest of that drama of life which has 
gone on since the world began. 



164 




Dans cette dtude, nous avons voulu aussi et ^rincipalement dvoquer une Ville, la Ville 
comfne unpersonnage essentiel, associi aux itats ePdme, qui conseille, dissuade, ditermine 
a agir. " ■ ^^ j 

■Ainsi dans la rMitd,cette Bruges, qtiil nous a plud'ilire,ai>paraUpresquehumaine. . . . 

Un ascendant s'dtablit d'elle sur ceux qui y sdjournent 
Elle lesfaqonne selon ses sites et ses cloches. . . . 
{fespere) que ceux qui nous liront subissent aussi la presence et Vinfluence de la Ville, 

iprouvent la contagion des eaux mieux voisines, sentent a leur tour t ombre des hautes 

tours allongde sur le texte. 

LIFE, ART, AND NATURE IN AN 
OLD-WORLD CITY. 



HILE I was revising the article which follows a few 
days ago, I came across a little book recently pub- 
lished, called Bruges la Morte^ and in the preface 
were the above words. They phrase so exactly 
the feeling which I attempted to embody long since 
in the following article : the feeling which pos- 
sessed me most strongly during the months I spent in the Dead 
City, that I have placed them as a sort of motto or keynote at the 
head of the paper, that if the notes which follow are a little flat, I 
may at least have the pleasure of referring my readers to a pleasant 
author and an \\\Xsxq.s\xc\% 4tude passionnelle. — H. Q. 1892. 

The first day in Bruges is apt to be a trial. The monotony 
of this half-deserted Gothic town is of a more than ordinarily de- 
pressing quality, and the effect of the angular roofs and windows 
wearying to the eye as the diagrams of a book of Euclid. The low- 
browed shops, the irregularly- paved streets, the dull, unrelieved 
brown and grey of the houses, add to the dreary effect. " The old 
houses are very interesting," says Mr. Baedeker ; but they are not, 
to use an expressive Americanism, " gay." After an hour or two, one 
takes them, and their staircased gables, grimly, almost as a necessary 

1 Bruges la Marie, par Georges Rodenbach. Marpon et Flammarion, Paris. 

165 



evil ; and morbidly wonders how such an impracticable architecture 
ever came to be generally adopted. The little restaurants, too, with 
their doorless doorways, their deserted rooms and sanded floors, are 
hardly inviting ; and as the grey evening closes in, and the over- 
tall belfry tower grows indistinct behind a veil of dull rain, the 
forlorn impression deepens, and the stranger thinks that his Philistine 
companion, who elected to sleep at Brussels, was not so wrong after 
all. The ordinary tourist, indeed, rarely lingers here, and takes 
away with him few impressions but those of narrow crooked 
streets, tall houses thrusting jagged step-like gables against the sky 
— cobble-stone pav-ements, which hurt his feet and disturb his equa- 
nimity — and smells of an intensity and variety rarely equalled even 
in Venice. 

The sights of Bruges have chiefly the peculiarity of unobtrusive- 
ness. The few good pictures are hidden in out-of-the-way corners ; 
the finer examples of Gothic architecture are in by-streets ; and the 
churches are big and bare, and for the most part badly decorated. 
Indeed, these last are painted (it was done in the earlier half of the 
present century) with what Mr. Baedeker calls "polychromatic 
ornament," which sits with uneasy smartness on their pointed arches 
and gaunt stone pillars, as out of place as a bit of Liberty silk cast 
upon some old Crusader's tomb. So, unless the tourist be of the 
School Board kind, an architectural student, or a mediaeval statistician, 
he shakes the dust of Bruges off his feet without regret, and rarely if 
ever returns. We must be really fond of art to take it in such con- 
centrated, ungilded doses, amidst such dusky surroundings. And yet 
apart from the pictures and architecture, if one gives this town a little 
time, wanders about the streets without a guide-book, and allows the 
old-world city, so to speak, to tell its own tale in its own way, the place 
has a distinct charm. Not to mention the paintings, of which more 
hereafter, the atmosphere of the town itself soon grows delightful. 
The little sturdy brown houses of the poorer quarters, with their 
irrelevant gables, and heavy woodwork carved quaintly here and 
there, and the dark interiors lit up only by a gleam of light upon 
some brass or copper water-jug or saucepan ; the rows of old women 
lace-making, each in her long black cloak and neat cap ; and the long 
curling canals which wind in and out amongst the streets, have all a 
pleasant flavour of strangeness and interest. One soon learns to 
lounge on the parapets of the frequent bridges, to get continual if 
slight pleasure from noting the reflection of some bright mass of 
flowers in the dull water, or trace with languid interest the blackened 
carving of an arch or gable. 

Even amongst the pictures themselves there is a quiet satisfaction 
to be gained, such as could hardly be found amidst the long luxury 
of the Ufiizi or Pitti galleries, or the cold corridors and chapels of the 

1 66 



Vatican. It is nice to enter a grim, sparsely-windowed house, and 
passing by the deaf custode up a rough stone staircase, to come upon 
a small vaulted apartment not much .bigger than an ordinary bath- 
room, and find one of the finest Van Eycks in the world hanging 
there in an execrably bad light, and in a dirty old frame that Mr. 
Agnew would not think fit to put on an oleograph. It shows that 
art is not altogether devoted to the indolent pleasures of the rich, to 
find pictures like this, which are of their kind inimitable, hung in 
obscure corners of church, gallery, or hospital in their native place, 
having been done evidently with little thought of public recognition, 
and little desire of personal reward ; and it is pleasant to think that 
these stolid Flemish citizens and peasants have been able to find, 
since the first days of their national life, whatever comfort or delight 
they could gain from pictures or statues, in records of their own 
pec^le, done by their own artists} We see with pleasure when we 
look at the St. Johns, and St. Matthews, the Virgin Maries and 
Magdalenes of the great Flemish painters, that they are simply 
portraits of the peasants or citizens one might meet to-day in the 
Flemish fields or streets. These Virgins, with the big broad 
rounded foreheads, and small full-lidded eyes, with tall solid figures 
stiff in gesture, and placid homely faces ; who sit upon their thrones 
as a poor tenant might sit on the verge of a chair in the Squire's 
drawing-room — are but the women that we see everywhere on the 
market-days at Bruges, walking in from the surrounding country in 
their heavy black cloth cloaks, and narrow-bordered muslin caps. A 
strong, tall, and as a rule good-looking race are they, though their 
beauty is of a stern, thoughtful kind ; and their deep grey or dark 
brown eyes are little troubled with modern fretfulness or speculation. 
Conceive the very antitype of the brisk bustling French towns- 
woman — and it will not be far removed from a picture of the 
" Flamande," with her slow movements, her ox-eyed gaze, her 
patience, her phlegm, and her massive physique. It is no uncommon 
sight to see one of these young women towing a large two-masted 
barge up to Bruges from Sluys or Ostend, while her husband or 
father stands contemplatively at the tiller, and smokes his big china 
pipe with great enjoyment. One day indeed, as I was sitting 
sketching outside the town, there came a bigger barge than usual, 
with the whole female side of the family for three generations 
engaged in towing it. The grandmother, the mother, two daughters, 
and a fifth woman, who must I think have been the Dutch substitute 
for a general servant ; all harnessed abreast, all bent double with the 
strain of the ropes ; while behind them the great boat deeply laden 
with coal moved gently forward, and the big father smoked his pipe 
in dignified ease, steering indolently with his foot. Such a sight as 
this gives a shock to English notions at first, but on the whole the 

1 The old secret of art: the thing which "lies nearest." 
167 



Flemish peasant women look happier than peasant women do with us, 
and though the poverty in Bruges and the surrounding country is both 
deep and widespread, it does not seem to be of that grinding kind, or 
to produce the same amount of misery as its English equivalent. 

We have wandered away from the painters, in order to give some 
notion of the people who form the subject of their paintings ; for 
Van Eyck, or Memling, or any other of the great Flemish painters, 
did not care for theories in their art, but for facts. They picked up 
their St. Johns at the post-office or the bowling-green, and they 
stuck them bodily into their pictures, in gorgeous robes, but with no 
other alteration, and in every composition quaint little details and 
domesticities of urban or rural life peep out in enthroned Virgin and 
martyred St. Ursula, to find any parallel with which in Italian 
painting one has to go back to its very earliest days, to the time of 
Giotto and his followers. 

The Northerners, in fact, used their art in a totally different fashion 
from the Southern nations. They made of it a broom rather than a 
banner; it was for use rather than for display. In the finest period 
of Italian art there is little trace of this intimate relationship between 
the painter and the everyday domestic life of his time, which is the 
very keynote of all Flemish painting.^ Even as far back as the 
days of Giotto, the simplicity of the Italian was not only inferior in 
degree, but totally different in kind, to that of the Fleming. For 
Giotto and the Giottesci, and indeed, speaking broadly, all the pre- 
Raphaelite painters, strove to be simple, if we may use such an 
expression, of malice prepense. Their simplicity was less a national 
quality than a revolt against the strained tradition which had been 
bequeathed to them by Byzantium. But in the early Flemish work 
the simplicity is wholly unconscious, it depends entirely upon the 
painter's inability to conceive his art in any other terms than those 
in which he conceived his life. Intellectually a limited people, and 
emotionally a restricted one, the Flemings held fast, with a devotion 
that was intense in proportion to the scantiness of its material, to 
the facts which they saw around them, and the truths which they 
comprehended. 

The best Van Eyck in Bruges, and the picture which has been 
chiefly in my mind whilst writing the above, is an " Enthronement 
of the Virgin," — with a saint on one side, of course, and a priest on 
the other. The saint, though a magnificent piece of painting, is not 
specially interesting ; and the Virgin herself differs little from the 
usual mild-mannered lady who is generally cast for this part in 
Flemish pictures. But the priest is an important personage, of as 

* Let me not be misunderstood to mean that there was no trace of relationship between 
the social life and the Italian painter's art : but the ordinary everyday domestic life which the 
Fleming depicted and cared for, we do not find in the art of Italy. 

1 68 




A'EXICE. — (jl.AKA MuNTALBA 



marked an individuality as a Dickens character; and becomes almost 
a personal friend to those who pay two or three visits to the picture. 
He is a stout, curiously- wrinkled, flabby-faced man, with a bald head 
and a triple chin, small pig-like eyes half opened, and heavy 
pendulous cheeks. Good humour, good living, and a little cunning 
self-interest, have puckered and wrinkled his face into a thousand 
creases; and he has just got into his splendidly-embroidered robe of 
office, and is doing his devotion with a sort of perfunctory air, such 
as one may see to this day in any of the Bruges churches. A 
wonderful piece of Zola-like painting, no less admirable for its 
characterisation, than for the magnificence of its technique. 

There are some Memlings, too, at the Academy, but they are not 
so good as the celebrated ones in the Hospital of Saint John ; about 
which, too, there is a pleasant story, which has probably been proved 
untrue by some German archaeologist, telling how Memling painted 
them in return for the care with which the Sisters had nursed him in 
their hospital. The "Chasse de Saint Ursule," as the cabinet 
containing them is called, contains a series of eight panels, painted 
in a small carved shrine, which I suppose holds some relic of the 
holy St. Ursula. These paintings are very marvellous in several 
respects, especially in the grouping of masses of figures, each 
wrought with the utmost intricacy of detail, and with an apparent 
power in the painter of realising the utmost minutiae, even in scenes 
where he must really have worked from imagination. The colour 
is when compared with the colour of Van Eyck rather of the missal- 
painting order, though of its kind singularly beautiful, having a 
clear richness of quality like that of a darkened Fra Angelico. But 
the great pleasure of the series to most people will undoubtedly lie 
in the marvellous rendering of character and expression in the 
various faces, on a scale so minute as to seem almost incredible. 
To my thinking, the religious element is in these works almost 
entirely wanting ; at all events, the pleasure which they give is in no 
way dependent on that sentiment, and in this respect the contrast 
between Memling and the early Italian painters is very remarkable. 
However, even plate -spinning, when it is carried to a certain 
extent, gives intense satisfaction ; and surely no plate-spinning in 
the world was ever so dexterous as this handling of Johannes Mem- 
ling's. All round the room in which this wonderful shrine is kept, 
there is hung a quaint collection of early Flemish pictures, which 
will well repay examination, but of which I cannot here speak in 
detail; for there was a pompous official on the day I visited the 
gallery who shouldered every one round the room, much as one has 
seen a collie hustle a flock of sheep through a gate. He was not 
nice, this man, though he wore a shiny black dress-suit and the blue- 
and-white scarf of office, and was, I believe, laid on by the hospital 
z 169 



sisterhood for this occasion only ; for it was one of the festivals on 
which the hospital was open to the general public. The house itself 
is a long, rambling edifice, standing in a narrow street over against 
the Church of Notre Dame, and entered by a low-browed circular 
archway, with a finely-carved and dimly-coloured wooden statuette 
of some bygone bishop in a niche above the keystone of the arch. 
On the other side of the roadway, against the wall of the church, 
rises a very realistic pieta, with kneeling figures of the Virgin and 
St. John, and a heap of earth at the foot of the cross with a couple 
of skulls on it. The whole of this erection — which was done, or at 
least restored, somewhere about the beginning of this century — is an 
eyesore, the only one of its kind in Bruges : it presents a very 
repulsive combination of tawdriness, vulgarity, and make-believe 
religion ; and if the old bishop who looks down upon it across the 
street could have his way, I am sure that gilt pastoral staff of his 
would be used to some purpose. 

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is only remarkable as an 
architectural curiosity, being an exact imitation in every detail 
of the original church of that name at Jerusalem. It was built 
about two hundred years ago by a pious layman, who undertook two 
separate pilgrimages to the Holy Land in order to carry out the 
scheme on which he had set his heart, and to ensure the correctness 
of each detail of the reproduction. I am ashamed to say this edifice 
did not interest me in the slightest degree, but I have not the 
strength of mind to omit it altogether, lest the disciples of Baedeker 
should turn and rend me. 

In the Palais de Justice the great attraction is a wonderfully- 
carved mantelpiece, containing numerous panels with illustrations of 
Scriptural scenes, garlands of flowers, statuettes, coats-of-arms, etc., 
and this too is more curious than beautiful ; admirable, like so many 
of these old-world decorative objects, chiefly for the long patience of 
its originator, and the evident enthusiasm with which he has done his 
work. There is an interesting and tragic story connected with its 
execution, something to the following effect : 

There were two wood-carvers in Bruges, of whom the inferior was 
jealous of his rival, and succeeded, by means of false witnesses, 
in getting him condemned to death by the town council for the 
murder of a relation. But the council, being anxious to get the 
services of this great wood-carver for nothing, adjourned the 
execution of the sentence for a year, till he should have finished 
the great mantelpiece in the town hall ; so he went to work every 
day in the Palais de fustice, and was led back to his dungeon in 
the evening. Towards the close of the time his innocence came 

170 



o«/, and was conclusively established. Wherefore, on the morn- 
ing after the mantelpiece was completed, the council came in 
state to tell him that he was free — and found him in his dungeon, 
dead. 
Thus runs the legend. 

But neither the mantelpiece, nor the Memlings, nor the archi- 
tecture of Bruges, are the matters for which those who dwell within 
the city walls care the most. The great feature of the place is 
undoubtedly the canals, which in places are vividly reminiscent of 
Venice. There is a curious double circle of these round the town, 
the outer of which affords as pleasant a walk as could well be con- 
ceived. Imagine a long, continually -changing curve of water, 
bordered by tall ash and poplar trees, and dotted at irregular intervals 
with great grey stone gates, generally in the form of a large double 
tower and archway between, through which one catches sight of a 
street leading to the interior of the town. I magine continual windmills, 
standing on green banks of turf, irregular masses of red-tiled house and 
grey tower, and occasional peeps down a long vista of canal, stretching 
away into the surrounding country — for these canals sometimes run 
from the gateways for miles, without a curve or bend to break their 
long perspective. To the little village of Dam, for instance, which 
is upon one of them, about four miles from Bruges, there is only 
one slight deviation, scarcely sufficient to hide the houses from 
any one standing on the bridge at Bruges. The description of 
any of these canals applies to all — a huge avenue of trees on one 
side, and a broad towing-path on the other ; and on both sides wide 
stretches of flat agricultural country, growing chiefly wheat and flax. 
This flax industry, by the way, is not altogether a pleasant one for 
the pedestrian, since, after the flax is cut, it has to be steeped in the 
waters of the canal, and then spread out upon the fields to dry, at 
which time it smells abominably. Dam is a quaint little village 
enough, more Dutch than Belgian, in which a great disused H6tel 
de Ville alone remains as a sign of former prosperity. This building 
is now turned into an hotel, or at least into a place where you can 
have a cup of coffee in a great bare kitchen, with huge beams of 
carved wood, and a fireplace as big as a bathing machine. The old 
Flamand in charge shows you the pair of tongs, ten feet long, and 
one or two other antiquities of a mild nature, and is perfectly content 
with two or three sous, or indeed with nothing at all ; for Dam is 
"out of the track of ships," — not mentioned in any guide-book, and 
seldom visited except by artists, and they, like bicyclists and lovers, 
go everywhere. 

From the less-frequented portions of the town, and the environs 
of Bruges, the stranger with abundance of leisure will derive indeed 
much satisfaction. Betwixt the inner and outer circle of canals 
which surround the city there lies a network of small quaint streets, 

171 



and little, dusty, forgotten squares, in which nearly every house has 
a history. One cannot leave the town without passing across a 
bridge, and under a great fortified gateway — relics of the time when 
the city held its own valiantly : a kind of Northern Venice.^ The 
likeness, by the way, is not altogether fanciful ; for in the great square, 
from one side of which the belfry "still watches o'er the town," there 
is a large building which bears no slight resemblance to the celebrated 
Ducal Palace, with its long tiers of low-browed arches beneath, and 
massive wall above, pierced at wide intervals by pointed windows. 
The legends about the gates, and the belfry, and the old houses, are 
almost innumerable ; are they not all written in Delapierre's 
Chroniques ? And of these tales, one told of the most picturesque 
spot just outside the town, the Minnewater, is perhaps the prettiest. 
The spot is, indeed, very beautiful ; for there one of the canals opens 
out into a broad space of water to meet a little river which comes 
down from the surrounding country. There is a low grey stone 
bridge with two or three wide arches ; great banks of reeds, like 
those in Millais' " Chill October " ; a long row of tall poplars, stretch- 
ing from the end of the bridge towards the town ; and by their side 
a solitary round tower, which stands out black against the sunset, 
and is reflected darkly in the water beneath. By the side of this 
bridge — which, by the way, is reported to hav'e been the original of 
Longfellow's celebrated poem of the same name — and separated from 
it only by a little weir, through which the river tumbles into the 
canal, is a low marshy island, now cultivated as a nursery garden, 
but still full of bushes, pollard willows, and rank luxuriant growth ; 
and it is about this island that the story of Minnewater is told, as 
follows : 

In the days when the Romans and the Norsemen shared the for- 
tunate country of Belgium between them, there lived a maiden, 
whose father was one of the chiefs of the latter race, and, with the 
usual perversity of women, she must needs fall in love, not with 
the young Dane whom her father had selected for her, but with 
one of the conquered Belgians. How they met, and how they 
loved, and how they plighted eternal fidelity , differs but little from 
all other stories of this nature ; nor are we surprised to hear that 
the despised lover saved the father's life, and was thenceforth of 
course hated more cordially than ever by the piratical old 
scoundrel How her sweetheart went off to the wars, and 
Minna put off her marriage to the young Dane whom her father 
had chosen for her; and how, finally, when she could find pretext 
for delay no longer, she fled, ivith a single faithful slave, from the 
parental roof; and what trials and sorrows she endured in her 
flight, all this follows naturally. But at last she came to a 
place of pleasant waters and luxuriant grass, on the borders of a 

1 Not a "vulgar" one like Rotterdam. 
172 



little village, and, as the chronicler tells us, sat down in cheerful 
. confidence to wait for news of her lover. The days passed on, and 
still the lover came not, and the cheerful confidence wore away, 
till one day the slave saw the light fade out of her mistress's eyes', 
and Minna died quietly, by the side of the stream — and of course, 
even as she died, there came a noise of footsteps, and a sound of 
rending branches, and her lover com^s— faithful, but too late. So, 
with the help of the slave, he diverted the water from one of the 
little courses which intersected the island, and made her grave 
reverently therefor her in the bed of the stream, and then set to 
work to let the water into its old channel, till it flowed above the 
grave of his sweetheart. Then— for they did such things in these 
old days — he sat down to wait till his time too should come ; and 
we fancy that the words of old Sir Godfrey Mallory about Lancelot 
would apply here : " Then Sir Lancelot never spoke nor smiled 
any more, and pined and dwined away till he died." And the 
water is called the Minnewater to this day. 
So ends the legend. 

After living for some time in this old-world atmosphere, the most 
contented grow desirous of a change, if only to make certain that 
the nineteenth century is still going on — that we have not reversed 
Rip Van Winkle's experience. The remedy is invariably to go to 
one of the two lungs of Bruges — Ostend or Blankenberghe — either 
of which is no more than a short half-hour's railway journey distant. 
It is one of the many accidental ironies of fate, that both of these 
towns should be, as far as their social life is concerned, of the most 
brand-new, flimsy, stucco -like description. Ostend is too well 
known to talk about here, but its little rival Blankenberghe is so 
new as to be comparatively unknown to the majority of English 
people. This little town is wonderful, and toy-like, stretching a 
rampart, one house thick, along a mile of red-brick digue, in front 
of a great waste of sandy beach, and a sea whose waters are too 
remote to be terrible. Every variety of mock Grecian, fantastic 
Gothic, and hybrid Moorish architecture, is represented in the 
little villas that border the digu£, and which for the most part have 
a somewhat staring, low-necked- dress appearance, from the prodi- 
gality with which they display all the treasures of their interiors to 
the promenaders. Asmodeus himself would have no cause to take 
the roofs off these houses, as the whole of the front wall appears in 
the majority of cases to have been bodily removed, so that the 
inhabitants of each villa seem to be living in a section of a house, as 
in stage interiors. This little town, despite a certain element of the 
ludicrous, has one characteristic which is very delightful to those who 
come to it from Bruges, and that is, its excessive brightness. Built 
as it is on a ridge of sandhills, which border the whole line of this 
coast, it lies twenty feet or so above the surrounding country, and 

^1Z 



. J ^j 



overlooks at the back the green plain of the land and in front the grey 
plain of the sea. The dazzling white of the little villas, freshly- 
painted at the commencement of each season, beats back the 
bright light reflected from the sea and the red bricks of the long 
promenade ; till, on a really fine day, the effect is one of the most 
dazzling possible, and reminds the stranger of the Chiaja at Naples. 

Here one may see the ponderous German, and the even more 
imperturbable Dutchman, taking his pleasure in the most childlike 
fashion, to the music of perpetual bands, and with the help of 
innumerable donkeys. For if you go to Blankenberghe, you must 
mount one of the excessively small donkeys which stand in troops 
at either end of the digue ; and so away along the shore, either for 
a canter on the sand close to the sea, or a solemn promenade up and 
down the hills and valleys of soft sand, which lie a little back from the 
water. Hundreds of little red-and-white and blue-and-white bathing 
machines; dozens of huge scarlet Japanese umbrellas stuck in the sand, 
with whole families basking in their shadow ; an almost interminable 
line of Dutch fishing-boats, all moored in precisely the same position, 
at exactly equal distances from one another ; banners and streamers 
and gilt balls, and pinnacles, turrets, and weathercocks above your 
head, a mass of baking bricks beneath your feet ; a vision of many 
big women in cool cream-coloured dresses and deep-red parasols ; a 
white sand, a steel-coloured sea, and a blue vault with a great globe 
of brightness in its midst ; all of these made up my first impression 
of Blankenberghe. 

Just think of the change from grim, grey old Bruges, with the 
perpetually-chiming bells, the silent streets, the genteel poverty, 
and the general air of having dropped somehow out of the last 
century ; to this latest mushroom of civilisation, built of sand, sun- 
shine, and stucco, and flaunting its money, its frivolity, and its 
fashion, in the very face of Nature. Nevertheless, here come all 
the worthy Brugeois, day after day throughout the summer, without 
any apparent sense of incongruity, but rather, I fancy, with a notion 
of being, in their way, Arcadian. Here do they gather sufficient 
ozone, and here sufficient change, to make their dull town life toler- 
able. And teethe stranger their manners by the seaside are entirely 
delightful, — to see a stout Flamand of fifty or thereabouts solemnly 
punting by the aid of a small tambourine a minute india-rubber ball 
to another burgher of similar aspect, which is the favourite way in 
which fathers of families take exercise on the digiie, is enough to 
restore one's faith in human nature. How little can there be wrong, 
morally or physically, with a sexagenarian who can still gambol, 
though a trifle heavily perhaps, after the same toy which delighted 
him half a century ago ; especially when he is able to do it under the 
eyes of four or five hundred wondering strangers. 

174 



The native element in Bruges consists of two classes : the small 
shopkeepers and peasantry, and what one of the former described to 
me as "/a haute aristocratic Belgiqiie." La haute aristocratic Bel- 
gtque takes Its pleasure sadly enough, in a great empty clubhouse, at 
isolated balls at the Governor's residence, and in sloppily-got-up 
dogcarts, which it drives with square elbows and loose reins as fast 
as the rough pavement of the streets permits. The peasantry turn 
m froni the country, and the shopkeepers turn out from their houses, 
every Saturday throughout the year ; and the whole town is then 
converted into a great open-air shop, the merchandise of which is 
either spread on the cobble-stones of the street, or Place, or dis- 
played in little handbarrows and slightly-constructed sheds covered 
with canvas, all of which are put up, or brought in, in the early 
morning, and taken away at Rundown. 

All this seems tame and uneventful enough, and the resident 
strangers whom you meet with in the streets of Bruges are not of 
a character to alter that impression. They are for the most part 
waifs and strays, whose social life has for some reason or other 
come to an end in their native land, and who have come to Bruges 
to economise. The schools and convents are numerous there for 
the children, and there are but few shops to attract the women, and 
few temptations to expenditure for the men. Marked characters 
are they who order a pint of champagne, or put on a clean shirt 
for dinner. The town is permeated by a small stream of thin 
perpetual gossip, which leaves nobody alone, and busies itself 
about every detail of your personal appearance, your expenditure, 
your relations, and your business. "What do you do with your- 
self all day ? " said the old Scotch banker to me, before I had 
been in the town a week. "What do you do with yourself all 
day. How is it you are never seen about?" And from this 
time forth the estimable old gentleman asked me question upon 
question, and I supposed retailed the answers for the benefit of his 
clients. The gossip of a small English county town is pretty busy, 
but the gossip of a small English population in a town like Bruges 
is perfectly incredible in its curiosity and pre-Raphaelite in its 
detail. After some weeks in the town, however, we get accustomed 
to this social inquisition, and even begin to take a share in it 
ourselves. A hankering to know what Brown has had for dinner, or 
why Miss Robinson didn't go to her convent yesterday, and how 
much Smith lost at billiards at the Caf6 Foy, etc. etc., grows upon 
us daily. We get in the habit of talking to waiters, and shopkeepers, 
and children, and hotel managers, and in fact to any one who can 
minister to our insatiable thirst for useless information. The stir of 
the great world fades away, or rather concentrates itself into the rustic 
cackle of our bourg; and a great indifference to all life which is 

175 



not bounded by the canals of the town, gradually overcomes us. 
Things are so much the same here, whether Bulgaria is united, or a 
French Ministry overthrown ; even the records of a great bigamy 
case, or a new crusade, reach us faintly, as in old days the songs 
of the Sirens reached the ears of Ulysses' sailors ; and as we meet 
day after day the same people, we say to them, and expect them to 
say to us, exactly the same things. " One of the bells at the belfry 
is a little flat," repeats my musical friend. * " Mr. Blank has not 
paid for that jewellery which he gave to Mrs. So-and-so," "There 
will be a fete in the square on the 26th of October, — only three 
months hence ! " " Mrs, Smith really ought not to go to England for 
a week, and leave that pretty daughter in charge of the children " ; and 
so on, and so on. These are the things we say to each other day 
by day. We take them down out of. our mental storehouse every 
morning, turn them round and dust them, perhaps even polish them 
up a little bit, and then sally forth to offer them gaily to the first 
comer, who in due course passes them on. What does it matter that 
there are in the great world without, 

" Wars and rumours of wars, and stories of sieges and shipwrecks," 

when we, like the mariners in the " Faerie Queene," have " come into 
a quiet tide " ? 

Not the least curious part of this life is the dulness even of its 
scandal. There is a weariness in the way in which the men and 
women here say nasty things to each other, which seems to confess 
that even this too doesn't matter ; and nobody dreams of being 
deeply offended, or taking any gossip very much to heart. After a 
time, however, all these peculiarities of the people and the place 
are accepted as a matter of course ; and a strange sort of pleasure 
in the quiescence and the nothing-matter-i-ness of each day grows 
upon you. You realise how it is that people came here for a week, 
and stopped twenty years. It is like being on shore after a long 
swim, and a distinct effort is required to plunge again into the water, 

" Here, where the world is quiet, 
Here, where all trouble seems 
Dead leaves and stilled winds' riot. 
In endless dream of dreams," 

exactly expresses the character of the existence. And here come to 
enjoy that quiet a strange patchwork of people, whose lives are only 
alike in one thing, and that thing — failure. 



176 




THE EAVESDROPPER 

[•'I'jm tlio oi'iginal by William Hunt in llic possession of llio niiihov 



JEAN FRANgOIS MILLET AND WILLIAM HUNT, 
OR IDYLLIC PAINTING IN FRANCE AND 
ENGLAND. 




T seems strange when we consider the matter care- 
fully, that both in France and England there should 
have been, nearly at the same time, a small group of 
what may be called for the sake of brevity idyllic 
painters, the members of both groups being few in 
number and most exquisite in the quality of their 
work, and that in neither country should they have left adequate 
successors, or even determined the main direction which the 
development of national painting should take. Still more strange is 
the fact that the style of art which was carried to such perfection by 
Corot, Millet, Rousseau, and Daubigny should have sprung up in 
France at all ; for all its relations are on the hither side of the 
Channel ; and we must look for them in such work as the water-colour 
painting of Cox and Hunt, the landscapes of De Wint and Gains- 
borough, and to some extent in the classical naturalism of Turner. 

There was little wonder that the critics and connoisseurs of the 
Salon scoffed at and rejected the work of Millet, when it first ap- 
peared, for the painting ran counter to every artistic tradition of their 
country. It was essentially unacademic, the qualities of style belonged 
to the ancient art of Greece rather than the cold science of Ingres or 
David ; and in place of the clear, smooth perfection and elaborate 
finish at that time popular. Millet's painting gave only a rich 
sympathetic presentment of natural fact, in which truth of action was 
substituted for beauty of composition; and depth of feeling took the 
place of pictorial art beauty. The critics and painters saw at once 
that this art, if once accepted, would seal the condemnation of the 
then existing style ; that it was no dry stick, but a sapling truth 
ready to bud and blossom, if only it might be planted with due 
tenderness in the cool shade. Fortunately, not all by chance perhaps, 
2 A 177 



these things do happen now and then when the world most needs 
them and is growing most dry and barren, when the paths of art are 
being choked with noisy tricksters, scientific pedants, or hopeless 
mediocrity, when fashion and frivolity are the notes and the aims of 
painting and painters, and when the struggle is who can say least 
in the loudest possible tone. Then one day there comes along, 
stolidly, roughly, and alas ! for the most part sadly, one of those artists 
who take us back into the clear light of real beauty and true emotion, 
and who link the art of the day in which they live, to the great Art 
of all former and future ages. 

No doubt the world was to a certain extent prepared for the arrival 
of such a painter as Jean- Francois Millet, for the ideas which he 
embodied on canvas are those which are vital to the life of to-day, 
and of which we are only just beginning to have real understanding and 
perception. Perhaps more accurately this applies to Millet's subjects, 
rather than his ideas, for the ideas after all are ancient enough, and 
it was only in showing their relation to a new class that Millet made 
his chief departure. The attempt to characterise the motives of such 
a painter's work is probably futile. But, though impertinent and 
useless with regard to the artist, it is neither if taken in connection 
with and in illustration of the art which is at the present time popular 
both in England and France. For the really fine things of the 
world are all of the nature of touchstones, and by these alone can we 
tell what is really worthy of our admiration. A library of declamation 
against the artistic practice of some of our popular Academicians 
would not carry a tithe of the conviction which the mere exhibition 
of The Angelus by the side of their paintings would convey. Noscitur 
a sociis is true here in a new sense, for the great picture not only 
proclaims itself, but absolutely destroys inferior companions, and even 
the people who are, as a rule, blind to the shortcomings of superficial 
painters would be inclined to reconsider their judgment if they could 
see the true work hung side by side with the false. 

The ultimate condemnation of much of the superficial painting of 
the present day is perhaps to be found in the consideration of the 
fact, that the present century is above all others a century of thought 
about man and nature, a century which leaves no belief unquestioned 
and no phenomenon uninvestigated, and no shade of meaning or 
significance unsought for which can help to realise, even if it does 
not help to solve, the great problem of life — the problem of the why 
and the whither, the problem of the connection between humanity 
and the earth, the problem of the consolation and the suffering, the 
rest and the action, which make up each man's experience of life. 
And this being so, I think we must all feel, if we allow ourselves to 
consider pictures which are merely pretty, by which I mean pictures 

178 



in which there is no thought below the surface attractiveness, that 
we are beholding something which has been confectioned expressly 
for us, something which is out of tone and out of tune with our 
genuine sympathy and real experience, and is so less bearable to us 
than even the most unattractive rendering of reality. 

The secret of Millet's greatness as an artist, apart from his 
technical excellence, which is to be considered separately, may well 
lie in his perfect, if unconscious, apprehension and exemplification of 
the above truth ; for in nearly all his pictures, and in all his greatest, 
there is to be found this union between man and nature, between the 
physical fact and the emotional experience, of which I have been 
speaking. To take an actual human being engaged in some ordinary 
avocation of his or her daily life, and to weld together the personality, 
the action, and the surrounding world, is what this artist did to 
perfection. Just think for a moment how significant is the achieve- 
ment when, for the first time in the history of Art, a painter is able 
to take such a subject as sowing, or gleaning, or fetching water from 
the well, and render it so impressive, so generic, so monumental, that we 
not only forget the thousands of pictures which have dealt with similar 
scenes, but that we feel every future rendering must, in so far as it 
be good, partake of imitation! This is indeed Art, the one true 
alchemy possible to man, the philosopher's stone by which each 
commonest thing may be transmuted into the golden ore of beauty 
and significance. 

I said some pages back that the sentiment of this French idyllist 
was far more English than Gallic, but it would probably be truer to 
define it as being un-Parisian. For English painting, at least 
English idyllic painting, would scarcely have risen to the impersonal 
view of the peasant which we find held by Millet ; entire deference 
to the squire and his lady, not even yet quite eradicated from the 
mind of the English lower classes, is hardly consistent with this 
representation of the dignity of labour which Millet showed us so 
persistently, and in the truth of which he believed to the uttermost. 
If we look at The Angelas, for instance, a litde closely, we can 
hardly fail to be struck by the self-possession, the self-sufficiency, in 
the good sense of the word, of the two figures. And though we 
allow in England that a labourer may be picturesque, may be 
healthy, may even be cheerful, we hardly allow, as far as our art is 
concerned, that he may be unconscious that he is a labourer, and 
may forget, even in his prayers, the position in which it has pleased 
God, and the customs of his country, to place him. The only man 
I know who did partially realise the peasant, apart from the restric- 
tions of his position in life, was the late Fred Walker, in two of 
whose pictures (the Ploughing, and The Old Gate) there are to be 
found that freedom, dignity, and self-possession which, accordmg to 

179 



th6 gospel of the fashionable novelist and the society journal, are alone 
to be found amongst the upper classes. And it is not unamusing to 
note how many people, who are firm admirers of Walker's painting 
in general, pull a wry face at the action of his ploughman driving 
the share through the furrow, and the pose of the workman in The 
Old Gate, who is removing the pipe from his mouth in unconscious 
deference to the affliction of the widow lady who meets him on 
his homeward way. People object to the freedom of the one man 
and the dignity of the other ; possibly from the point of view 
of rural statistics both are improbable, but in the statistics of feeling 
they are true, and that is all with which the artist need concern 
himself. The sentiment is genuine, the art beautiful, the repre- 
sentation adequate, and all will endure and be admirable when 
the little Mrs. Grundyisms of to-day have passed into that limbo 
where all dead things lie dead. 

But it is hardly necessary to say that between the idylllsm of 
Walker and the idyllism of Millet there is a great gulf fixed, and 
that in one aspect of manhood our English master must vail his 
bonnet before the Frenchman. For though Walker could see the 
dignity of action that might be possible to a peasant or a workman, 
he did not and could not conceive the dignity of manhood that 
might reside within him ; he caught and rendered magnificently, 
and with something of the old Greek nobility, the gesture, but 
the mind escaped him. His labourers have been out in the sun 
and wind, but have learnt nothing therefrom, and the earth has 
not made them a part of itself, and their toils have not become, 
as they have become with Millet's peasants, part of the very fabric 
of their lives. And I have always felt, in looking at Fred Walker's 
pictures, a curious inability to realise the personality of most of 
the people depicted therein. They are as impersonal as statues 
(I do not mean as likenesses of the Duke of Wellington or others 
by Sir Joseph Boehm), and their lack of individuality seems to be 
natural, and not to carry with it any sense of defect or incompletion. 
This quality of Walker's work is more evident in his later than in 
his earlier pictures, for he began by being rather pre-Raphaelite in 
his delineation of character, and I have one of his earlier pictures in 
which a shy child is being introduced to her new mamma, in which 
the study of expression is the one fine thing in the picture, which is 
injured by a considerable amount of ugly costume insisted upon by 
the artist with somewhat objectless fidelity. 

There is, however, only one Englishman with whom Millet can 
profitably be compared, for there is only one who has as yet given 
of the English peasant an absolutely veritable record. This is a 
water-colour painter dead some forty or more years ago called 

1 80 




LES AMOUREUX. — A. G. Binet 



William Hunt, and often for the sake of distinction — for there are 
many Hunts who paint — nowadays "Old William Hunt"; he was 
one of our great (almost of our greatest) artists, and though his 
art is chiefly known for the exquisite perfection of his fruit and 
flower pieces, yet his delineation of rural scenes and rural characters 
was of even greater value, not only because it is a higher and more 
difficult thing to paint a man well, than a dog-rose or a branch of 
apple-blossom, but because when Hunt's work turned to the subject 
of humanity, it became at once less elaborate, and more powerful. 
The same hand which could mark and reproduce each faintest 
change of colour in the petals of the primrose or the blush of 
the grape, could, when it turned to the delineation of men and 
women, forget, or at least disregard, in the pursuit of character 
and expression, all the minutely laborious brushwork to which it 
was habituated, and striking clean down to the heart of each rustic 
model, comprehend his character and his life, and set him down for 
ever in simplest, truest guise. 

These words are no way exaggerated : for nearly a dozen 
years I had the daily opportunity of studying forty of Hunt's finest 
works, and it is my deliberate opinion that for absolute unpreten- 
tious truth they stand alone in English art. For the heart of pre- 
Raphaelitism is here without its weakness, without its morbid 
feeling, and, niost wonderful of all, we see as we look at these 
pictures, that the painter did not even know he was a great artist 
— the simplicity and lack of pretentiousness of the work are beyond 
all praise. Look, for instance, at this grand sketch of a Game- 
keeper facing the next page. Titian himself could have given 
no truer, finer dignity to Pope or Emperor than Hunt has given 
here by dint of adhering to the plain truth of natural gesture, and 
by reproducing that gesture without self-consciousness or straining 
after effect. He was not making a picture of the Gamekeeper — 
at least he was— but the picture as it were grew naturally out of 
the subject. What a piece of work it is even bereft of its colour 
and reduced to so small a scale ! We wish we could persuade a 
dozen or two of our readers who talk or care about English art to 
take the Universal Review to the Royal Academy Exhibition---it is 
still open— and compare this figure by "Old William Hunt" with 
any single figure, portrait or fancy, which they can find therein. We 
would forfeit a large sum if the majority did not confess that, in 
qualities of unaffected dignity, ease, untutored grace, strength and 
vitality, our Gamekeeper could find no equal amidst the Academy 
pictures. And as a matter of Art the comparison would be still 
more in the old water-colour master's favour ; for this is of the 
essence of fine art as surely as is the Tailor, by Moroni, in the 
National Gallery, or The Angelus of Millet, or the Haymakers of 

i8i 



Bastien Lepage. It is work in which every line is right, every 
means properly employed to produce the desired effect. We talk 
about the wonderful finish of Meissonier, but finish he never so 
minutely, his work cannot be more complete than this — nay, it can- 
not be as complete, for here Hunt has got to the heart of his subject, 
not rested content with his outer man. . And in this Gamekeeper we 
have a type of the class, as well as a representation of the subject. 
The amateur will notice that the execution of this drawing betrays a 
method which has at the present day passed into disrepute, and that 
is the combined use of pen and brush ; the majority of the outline 
portion of this composition having been sketched in with a broad 
quill pen, with which very probably was combined a brushful of 
colour ; in any case the outlines have been filled up with water- 
colour of various tints subsequently. The method was one some- 
times used by David Cox, and was indeed taught to the present 
writer by that painter's son as lately as five-and-twenty years ago ; 
but though it offers certain facilities for quick sketching, the practice 
is one by no means to be commended, being, indeed, wholly opposed 
to the manner of nature, and rendering it scarcely possible: for the 
artist to treat the subject with sufficient delicacy. This was by no 
means an ordinary way for Hunt to work, and is almost the only 
very fine drawing by him which I have seen executed in this 
manner, though there are a considerable number of early works in 
which the pen has been used freely. 

And now, bearing, this sketch well in mind, look at the engraving 
which forms the frontispiece to this article, and is from William 
Hunt's most celebrated picture of The Eavesdropper — a work which 
embodies all the best qualities of the painter and many of the most 
marked characteristics of English art. I remember Sir Frederick 
Burton saying many years ago to my father — perhaps in a fit of 
generous enthusiasm — that is the finest water-colour in the world. 
And some long while afterwards, when The Eavesdropper was 
exhibited at the Fine Art Society's Rooms in Bond Street, Ruskin 
wrote almost as strongly as the President of the National Gallery 
had spoken. So at least there are some good judges who would 
endorse the present writer's opinion, for the work in question has 
long appeared to me to mark the highest point to which water-colour 
painting has ever attained. Of course it is not a drawing in trans- 
parent colour only — none indeed of Hunt's finest works are so 
executed — and in the present instance a full use of body ^ colour has 
been made throughout. The extraordinary excellence of the drawing, 
technically speaking, is in its preservation of the delicacy, brilliancy, 
and transparency of effect of mere water-colour, while the strength, 
solidity, and richness of a fine oil-painting are obtained by the 

* Opaque white. 
182 




THE GAMEKEEPER 

peii drawing waslud witli >olour by William Hun' 

(From the original) 



dexterous use of opaque tints. Those who have studied technically 
the art of water-colour painting, especially in its later developments 
under such great artists as Walker and PinWell, know that even in 
the very finest examples of the art there is scarcely to be found this 
union. In, for instance, the most admirable of the Fred Walker 
drawings, beautiful as they are in colour and atmosphere, there is in 
the aspect of the paint itself some lack of transparency and brilliance 
— they in no way suggest the white paper beneath ; the colour might 
have been mixed like mortar and laid on with some most Liliputian 
trowel, of such mortar- like consistency is it. No trace of such 
deficiency, for deficiency it is, is to be found here. Alike in the 
opaque and transparent portions, the work appears transparent, 
fresh, and lively, and in the modelling and texture of the flesh 
especially is this to be seen — where the delicacy of work has been so 
great and its result so exquisite, that it is almost impossible to mark 
the portions wherein the opaque colour has been used. In other 
parts of the picture, where the artist relied less upon delicacy than 
strength, the use of white is far more apparent, especially in the 
more brilliantly -lighted details. The painting, for instance, of the 
boards which line this rough stable is a masterpiece of solid, almost 
rough painting, as large and free in method of work as if the artist 
had had a twenty-foot canvas in front of him. With passage from 
the strongly-lighted side of the picture to the shadow behind, the 
transparent colour comes into use again, and perhaps from a 
technical point of view the greatest triumph of the drawing is in the 
delineation of the old horse-collar and harness which hang in the 
shadow. But apart from the mere handicraft of the picture, its 
supreme quality is the marvellous richness and beauty of the colour. 
This is at once deep and lustrous, full of subtle changes and pleasant 
contrasts, shifting each moment, or rather, in each smallest fraction 
of the composition, and presenting, when viewed as a whole, a piece 
of mingled tone and colour which might hang between a Rembrandt 
and a Titian without fearing the comparison. 

The contrast between such idylHsm as Hunt's and that of Fran9ois 
Millet could hardly be more complete as regards the temper of mind, 
the point of view from which each regarded his subjects. They 
might be called indifferently the optimist and the pessimist of nature, 
for each was at once, as compared with the other, both optimistic 
and pessimistic ; for instance, if we take the mere surface of things 
and look at the people and their surroundings which William Hunt 
gives us, we feel inclined to think that the country contains nothing 
but pleasant, happy men and women, sunburnt maidens, laughing 
stable-boys, and stalwart gamekeepers. The very gipsies (look 
at our illustration else) are comfortable, comparatively well-to-do 
people, who mend their gowns and peel their lemons in a pleasant, 

183 



almost conventional manner. There is no hint of that harshness of 
Nature towards the poor from which Millet finds so much of his 
interest, and to which his pictures owe so much of their power. For 
Hunt saw only the smiling side of Nature, regarded her only, if we 
may so put it, from the still-life point of view, and liked best those 
aspects of her the material of which he could pack up in a basket and 
take home to paint at his leisure on the studio-table. But, though 
the outside of the English painter was so cheerfully optimistic, I 
think, rightly considered, his art was essentially, when compared 
with that of Millet, a material, a negative, and even a pessimistic 
one; for, in the rustics which he gave us, veritable and actual as 
they were, there seemed to be no touch to redeem their rusticity, no 
conception that life might hold finer things for them than beer and 
skitdes, or unlimited provision of the fat bacon and big pies in which 
their souls and bodies delighted. But in Millet's work there is 
always, beneath the suffering inflicted by Nature, and the toil 
imposed by man upon man, some hint of recompense ; the people are 
weary, very weary, but they are neither ashamed nor altogether 
hopeless : and Nature which has caused them so much pain has, in 
many ways, also to some extent requited them. They are not small 
figures of poor people in a landscape, these Gleaners or Sowers or 
Tenders of Sheep ; they are rather the inheritors of the earth ; they 
never suggest the presence, round the corner, of an employer of 
labour, of some one who on Saturday night will dole out his shillings 
to duly-thankful recipients. 

This difference, which marks, perhaps, one of the great border- 
lines between the art of France and England, is very real and very 
important, for it represents the presence or absence of right feeling 
for the dignity of labour and the worth of manhood, tells us that 
the beauty of the world is not exclusively made for capitalists, 
that much indeed of natural loveliness is impossible for the capitalist 
to understand, until he brings himself into relations with the every- 
day joys, sorrows, and experiences of those who serve him. 

One curious thing about Hunt's work in this connection is that, 
though it reflects the English conventional feeling in such matters, it 
does so with absolute unconsciousness, and shows that the painter 
himself is entirely sincere in his representation. All that he saw in 
the rustic is here, quite untouched by affectation ; it never occurred 
to him that there might be a reverse side to the medal, that there 
were seasons when the trees were blossomless instead of fruitful, 
when the fat bacon and the beer were wanting, when the sunshine 
was veiled, and the leafless branches dripped heavily with the 
rainfall. In the art of Hunt's time, moreover, no English painter 
seems to have had such feeling ; and although, for instance David 

184 




THE GIPSIES 

WILLIAM HUNT 

Fi'om [lie oiiaiiuil wjter c 



^Mj ^2- ^^ Wint would habitually choose sombre landscapes and 
wild effects of wind and storm, yet they rarely dealt with autumn or 
wmter, and you might look through a tolerably complete collection 
of works by either painter without meeting with a single example in 
which that quiet regretful poetry, so common a note of our modern 
landscape painting, strongly predominates. 

If I had to select one word to characterise the water-colour art of 
the last generation, it would be the word cheery. The artists were 
always making the best either of a good or a bad business, and there 
IS an absolute freshness and joviality about David Cox's worst 
weather pictures far more inspiriting than the majority of sunlit com- 
positions which we might find in the Academy to-day ; and here is 
another fact worth mentioning in this connection, which is that 
nowadays our landscape painters are very chary of representing 
windy weather. With the exception of one or two men who paint 
the sea (above all, Mr. Henry Moore) I cannot at the present 
moment remember a single English artist who attempts to depict 
the hurried march of the clouds, or the wild tossing of the trees, 
storm-driven ; and yet, after all, it is in such phases as this that 
Nature becomes most alive, and most akin to humanity. Who that 
has often struggled along a sea-cHfif in the teeth of the windy 
weather has not sometimes felt a sense of exhilaration and oneness 
with the turmoil round him which almost seemed to identify his 
feeling with that of the storm itself, and by dint of much communion 
with Nature, and much taking of her in her roughest as well as in 
her mildest moods, our old water-colour painters got to understand 
this feeling, and so rendered it that the freshness remains in their 
work to the present day. 

Compare a landscape by, for example, Mr. Keeley Halswelle, 
with a landscape by David Cox, or, for the matter of that, with Old 
Crome or De Wint : you will find that, though Mr. Halswelle does 
frequently attempt to paint windy skies, yet that the clouds therein 
are always stationary ; the reeds bend under the influence of the 
breeze in his pictures, but they do not spring back again, they do 
not blow to and fro as they would appear to do in a Cox land- 
scape. Even in the Chill October, which, on the whole, is probably 
the best windy landscape which has been painted for the last twenty 
years, there is much of this stationary quality — the impression given 
by the picture is one of stillness, although the scene itself is of 
unrest. I think this lack of sympathy with the more impersonal phases 
of Nature must spring from the increase of self-consciousness in 
modern artists' minds, and partly, no doubt, from the introspective 
habit of modern thought, partly from the increased luxury of their 
lives, and partly from continual pressure upon them of public exhibi- 
2 B 185 



tions. For remark well that Nature is far less personal in storm 
than in calm ; from the very moment the wind begins to blow, the 
personalities begin to disappear, even as the reflections of a boat 
are scattered at the first breeze which ruffles the surface of the 
water. And as the forces of Nature manifest themselves more and 
more, as the breeze freshens to a gale, and the gale to a hurricane, 
so does the personal element of a landscape, and the need of special 
personal feeling with regard to it, decrease, to such an extent that, 
when figures are introduced into such scenes, they please us best 
when they are represented as suffering most from the elements, when 
the belated traveller is crossing the moor with the greatest difficulty, 
when the ship is shattered upon the rocks or driven helplessly before 
the tempest. 

There seems to be a strange contradiction in the fact that the 
elder landscapists of whom I have been speaking, though they 
painted such impersonal pictures, almost invariably introduced 
figures therein, while their modern descendants, when they paint 
landscape at all, do it almost exclusively from a personal point of 
view and most frequently without the introduction of figures at all. 
The whole modern landscape art of France, as well as England, is 
touched with this personal and generally morbid feeling ; and such 
work as that of Corot and Rousseau relies almost entirely for its 
attractiveness upon your sympathy with the special mood of the 
painter. When work of this character is carried to its highest point, 
we do get no doubt the most noble forms of landscape, for we get 
that union with human feeling and natural fact which lies at the root 
of all the finest art. But, be it noticed, that unless the painter's 
mind is one of extreme sensitiveness and wide grasp of feeling, it 
almost certainly results either in his reproducing only some one 
special aspect of Nature which appeals to him, or in his, so to speak, 
endeavouring to lash himself into a state of sensitiveness on occa- 
sions when he really feels nothing. 

There are, and always will be, two kinds of art with regard to 
which people will dispute which is the more admirable — the art 
which paints adequately what its owner sees, and the art which 
paints that which its owner feels. But for those who do not feel 
anything special it must always be hopeless to attempt to paint in 
the manner of those who do : the only secure foundation for great 
landscape painting must be, not the feeling of Corot, not the feeling 
of Rousseau, or Daubigny, or Millet, but the feeling, that is to say, 
the facts of Nature herself; founded upon the latter, the artist may 
learn to feel before his work is completed, and at all events as far 
as his work goes it will be real, though it may be uninteresting. But 
if it be founded upon imitation, if he strives to express a sentiment 
which he does not possess, but only admires in others, it must be 

1 86 



a sham, it must be worthless. Here, as elsewhere, the injunction 
holds good : Touch not the sacred vessels rashly, for it is profanation. 

These, it seems to me, are some of the reasons why the old 
English school of water-colours might have formed such a solid 
foundation for English landscapists ; for the members of the school 
were for the most part sane, clear-headed men, who went and took 
their art, as best they could, from Nature herself, and did not think 
too much about what they meant by their painting. Think that in 
this enlightened nineteenth century, under the wing of a nascent 
South Kensington Museum, and the fostering care of the Royal 
Academy itself, these men should have lived and died without 
national recognition or reward; that they were never allowed to 
share in the honours of the Royal Academy, and that not a single 
picture of theirs is to be found in the national collection — that not the 
slightest trouble was taken to keep their art alive; and that, if 
another David Cox and another De Wint were to arise to-morrow, 
all the art authorities of England would repeat the same neglect, 
stupidity, and injustice with the greatest pleasure ! 

The crew of interested persons who profess to reward and guide, 
as well as represent, English art, have been guilty during the last 
forty years of systematic neglect of their duty in many respects, but 
in none more than this, that they have seen the fine landscape art of 
their country dying slowly an unnatural death, and have stretched 
out no finger to relieve it, but have, on the contrary, given it at 
every possible moment a shove toward the tomb. And yet so 
tough and of such vigorous frame was the invalid, that even yet it is 
scarcely too late to save him. For, as I have often said, and as I shall 
go on saying till I get them recognised, there are a few good 
English landscapists still left among us, men who are not all 
u*nworthy to be the successors of David Cox and Peter de Wint. 
There is Robert Collier, for instance, and Hine and Wimperis, all of 
the Institute of Painters of Water-Colours, and all sincere and 
accomplished artists in a pure style of landscape painting, and there 
is George Fripp and Hook the Academician, and Aumonier and 
Henry Moore, chiefly known for his seascapes, to whom, by the way, 
the Jury of the International Exhibition of Paris have just given one 
of the only two medals of honour bestowed upon the English section, 
though the Academy kept the painter waiting till he was nearly fifty 
before they made him an Associate, and whom they have not elected 
a full Academician even to the present day. 

Look at the picture which is printed here on the opposite page. 
Are any of our readers so blind that they cannot see the difference 
between such a landscape as this and those which are presented for 

187 



their admiration by the doyens of the Royal Academy ; by Messrs. 
MacWhirter, Graham, and Leader ? I do not wish to say a word 
against the work of any of these gentlemen, further than that it is 
not in any way comparable in quality to such art as this — The Green 
Lanes by David Cox. Think for a moment what it is which renders 
the picture here given so superior, and dismiss from your mind if 
possible any notion that it can be superior by accident, or that there 
is anything in the subject chosen which will account for the excellence. 
It is not in the subject, and it is no accident : it is because the 
artist had both the power and the desire of representing Nature, and 
exercised it without affectation and without prejudice. We can feel 
the force andfreshness of Nature here, not onlybecause Cox was a great 
artist, but because his work was done face to face with his subject, not 
cockered up in the studio to please the public taste. And one proof 
of this is that, out of all the thousand sketches and pictures which 
Cox executed, there are not two which are even superficially alike in 
the effect depicted. He was as happy on a calm river as on a windy 
moor, on the sands as amongst the heather, in the field or in the 
woods, and, indeed, one of the most exquisite drawings of his I know 
was a seascape off Hastings. The present picture belonged to my 
father, and belongs, I am glad to say, to myself, and having known 
and loved it for many years, I may, perhaps overrate its merit ; but 
it appears to me to possess all the essentials of the greatest art, 
cataloguable and uncataloguable. There is magnificent composition, 
arrived at in the most, apparently, accidental manner, and yet 
scientifically, demonstrably perfect ; there is the most wonderful 
rendering of a strong wind and rainy sky, and of the general aspect 
of the country in stormy weather, which I have ever seen ; there is 
great beauty of colour, and there is an amount of life and movement 
throughout the picture which can be felt even in this greatly-reduced 
reproduction. But the chief quality of the painting can hardly be 
defined, for it lies in the sense of style with which the work is 
executed. We cannot look at it without thinking of the great 
masters of painting, and one immediately wishes to compare it with a 
Gainsborough, or even with old Salvator Rosa. The work is big in 
style and in execution ; it is man's work, standing firmly on its legs, 
and going straight about its business, not whining because of the 
destinies of humanity, or fiddling about with mere prettinesses of 
sentiment and effect; above all — at least above all in the present 
connection of which we are speaking, in the connection of English 
art — the picture is one in which the national character is fully and 
firmly expressed. The feeling is clean, healthy, out-of-door-English ; 
the artist evidently cares no more for a wetting than do the old 
fishermen who are getting ready their bait under the wind-tossed 
trees ; and we know that the painter saw this thing and rejoiced at it, 
and was altogether a robust capable person, though his art was so 

i88 



sensitive and so true. I have often heard it said by more or less ill- 
informed persons that such subjects as these were the only ones 
which Cox attempted, or in which he was wholly successful. As a 
matter of fact, almost the reverse is the case ; a very large number of 
his works show us the most sunny skies and the calmest weather, 
and for the close of this article I have selected a very beautiful 
example of this manner in the picture produced on the preceding 
page of Old Battersea Mill. No reproduction could possibly give the 
softness and delicacy of this drawing, but even here sufificient is left to 
show the sunny peace of the scene and the painter's absolute sympathy 
therewith. This picture is not more than a sixth of the size of the 
Green Lanes, and it may be worth pointing out that, as in all really 
great artists' work, the diminution of the scale makes no difference to 
the breadth of style and effect conveyed by the picture. This drawing, 
as in the little three-inch vignettes by Turner, of the Holy Land, 
might have been made of any size, but could not have conveyed a 
more perfect sense of distance and atmosphere. Nothing is indeed 
more certain than that great art is wholly independent of scale, and 
that whether you paint the size of Le Vin du Curd of Meissonier, or 
The Last Judgment of Angelo, your picture may contain the same 
spaces. 



189 



TWO DAYS OF A PAINTER. 




T was in the early summer of 1883 that I first 
seriously studied landscape - painting. I had, of 
course, drawn and sketched ^ a good deal before, and 
had been at an art school in England, and in studios 
abroad, but this in connection with my writing upon 
art. For that purpose also I had studied anatomy 
and dissection and modelling at Rome. In the year named, how- 
ever, for various causes which it is unnecessary to mention, I 
felt the need of harder and more sustained work than my former 
desultory practice, and I was, moreover, somewhat unwilling to 
bear the reproach which is commonly made against critics — the 
reproach, namely, that they at ease condemn, and ignorantly reject 
good painting because of their technical ignorance of the craft. In 
some ways the difficulties which lay before me were greater than 
ordinary, not only from age, but because of my many Press engage- 
ments. Moreover, I did not so much want to learn the technique 
of any artist or school, as I wanted, if possible, to study unbiassedly 
the aspects of Nature in their relation to painting, as I had previously 
studied, from the literary point of view, the relative excellencies of 
various schools and methods of art in relation to thought, emotion, 
and aesthetic pleasure. 

Of schools and styles I knew, it seemed to me, enough, and more 
than enough, and the need was to learn what Nature could teach me 
independent of any special artistic aim, — starting as little from the pre- 
Raphaelite point of view as from the plein-air or the Impressionist 
theories, disregarding alike Barbizon and the Royal Academy, 
thinking no more of Cox than of Turner, of Millet than Walker, of 
Peter Graham than Linnell,, — to forget all these, in fact, and just try 

1 Two studies are inserted in this article (in the large-paper edition) simply to show the 
character of this early work. They were done about 1881-82, and the first appeared in the 
Graphic of the latter year with the addition of two figures drawn from my suggestions, and 
with various alterations suggested by the inspiration of the wood-engraver. 

190 



simply for reality. I thought that the experiment would be an 
interesting one, especially if carried out thoroughly by one who, like 
myself, had no artistic faculty above the average, and determined to 
try it for five years, for my own satisfaction, in such intervals as I 
could spare from my literary work. These resolved themselves 
practically into about three months in the Long Vacation, though 
in one or two halcyon years I managed to get a month in springtime. 

Having no teacher, I constructed for myself a little code of rules 
which, on the whole, were observed pretty faithfully, of which the 
most difficult to keep was the one prescribing that at least one fresh 
sketch was to be made every day. For the first three years I tried 
to observe this regfulation, and, on the whole, did do so, but was 
then finally vanquished, and I offered my creditor conscience a 
composition of ten shillings in the pound, or a sketch every 
other day, which was accepted reluctantly. The rule is, I think, 
for all landscape students an admirable one, and so is the next 
article of my code, which I believe to be even more admirable — in 
the sense of taking more conceit out of the young painter. This was 
the regulation which forbade the selection of any conventionally 
picturesque subject, or the addition to the sketch of any such detail. 
No sand-carts on the beach, no flower-gathering children or hay- 
raking women in the meadows, no weary peasants in blue blouses 
on the country road or sitting under the corn-stacks, no mowers at 
morn or eve, no gleaners, fish-maidens, or weather-beaten sailors 
pulling driftwood from the sea — norte, in fact, of the infinite series of 
old hats — to use the studio slang — which make up the stock-in- 
trade of the popular artist, dear to the heart of Cassell, welcome in 
the halls of the illustrated periodicals. All such matters, incidents, 
and people were to be taboo — the sketch was to rely on nothing 
but its correspondence with the natural fact, the colour, the light and 
shade, the form of its subject. If it had not some degree of fidelity, 
at all events the weakness, the falsehood, were to be undisguised : and 
very marked and undisguised they were in my efforts. 

I doubt in very truth whether any one who ever tried seriously to 
paint has produced such a collection of abominable daubs as I did 
during the years mentioned. I doubt whether to this day any 
painter living has a clumsier hand, or draws with more effort and 
less touch. I would have given painting up in despair in that first 
year, were it not for one thing in which I much delighted, and for 
which I may have had some faint natural capacity, and that was 
Colour. Perhaps because I had lived as a lad with pictures which 
were finest of all English work in this respect ; perhaps because in 
after years I had studied Italian painting continually, m Venice and 
Florence ; perhaps only because the matter appealed to me above 

191 



all other art beauties — for whatever reason, there did seem to me to 
be now and again some progress in this direction in my own work, 
and I grew to have some faint hope that one day I should beat 
my music out, and so — I went on. Day after day I brought back 
to the village inns in which my autumn was passed, one sketch 
worse than another, day after day I set out again to fresh effort, and 
fresh failure. Sometimes in rage the canvases were hurled into the 
sea, trodden under foot, trampled into the beach sand, left anywhere 
and everywhere, so that I might see them no more, and as the 
possibility of any real progress grew, or appeared to grow, less and 
less, so the daily humiliation and despondency increased — at times 
almost unbearably. 

My main subject was the most beautiful thing in Nature, and what 
is surely the most difficult to understand and to reproduce — the sea, 
and there I sat solemnly, stupidly, earnestly trying to copy it, as a 
child tries to shape his letters. Of course the result was failure; 
but — and this is why I have written the foregoing — though the sea 
would not yield to me the secret I demanded, my effort gave me 
another, and perhaps a better reward. I learned something of the 
difficulties which painters conquer, and something of the under- 
standing which they gain. I realised how false was all art which is 
literally and solely reproductive, how worthless all art which has not 
realism for basis and guide ; and also that hard lesson, of content in 
personal failure, and, if I may dare to say so, of gladness that there 
are others who succeed. Gradually in each changing aspect of the 
great waters, in their varying voices and their myriad meanings, I 
found peace and strength. The mystery and the meaning, the terror 
and the majesty, of the sea stilled despondency and atoned for 
failure — gradually I came to feel the poetry, which I could not explain 
in terms of paint and canvas, of its changeful unchanging beauty. 
And with this there may too have come some first faint promise 
of good artistic work, which might possibly have been one day 
realised had I been able to leave off writing, and — had I been ten 
years younger. 

I think the most intense pleasure I ever experienced was when I 
heard casually about this time, that the hanging committee of a 
certain gallery had said of one of my sketches directly it was brought 
up, Well have that, at all events ! This was better than one's first 
proof — and oh, how good that is — that flimsy strip of paper with the 
"reader's" queries and the unintelligible printer's instructions! 

So my self-imposed task had served a purpose though achieving 
little. Artists are born, not made, and painting is not to be learned 
by rule-of-thumb in a few months' work yearly ; and thirty-five is one 
age, and fifteen another, and the latter much preferable for swallowing 

192 




cc 5 .= 



formulae, and training the hand — all of this had been made pretty 
evident to me : but then I had found out too, what no one but a 
painter ever can know, the kind of effort, endurance, patience, and 
knowledge a painter needs, and gains. I had learned more than a 
hundred years spent in the study of styles and theories would have 
taught me, of both the limitations and the possibilities of art ; of the 
painter's feeling towards his work and his subject ; of his conscious 
failure, his rare and fleeting contentment. I had come to realise 
the truth so frequently mentioned, so seldom felt, that in proportion 
to the knowledge and capacity of the artist, are his conviction of his 
own incompetency to render the beauty of Nature, and his discontent 
with the little that he is able to achieve ; last, and perhaps best of 
all, I had grown to know that faithful work does even for the least 
competent, in the long run bring some recompense in wider insight 
and keener perception, and though you may be at the end of life 
what you were at the beginning, a student rather than a master, 
you will be neither base, nor altogether unhappy — for you will have 
learned to be glad when others do that for which your hands are 
unavailing, and proclaim the truths which you can only know and 
feel. 

The sermon is somewhat long for the occasion, too short for the 
text ; and my only reason for saying these things was to explain how 
the two following sketches were written. They are simply and 
exactly what they profess to be — the untouched records of two 
impressions of country life, written on each occasion after the day's 
painting was finished. For this reason I have thought them 
worth including here, and have prefaced them by an account of 
the effort to teach myself painting. Taken together, I think they 
have a certain value, both objective and subjective, as showing both 
what was actually seen and heard on the occasions in question, and 
as suggesting two phases of artistic feeling and experience, which are 
perhaps new to some of my readers. They show at least how the 
pictorial aspect of Nature mingles itself in a painter's mind with the 
human environment, and makes, as it were, a special atmosphere, half- 
mental, half-physical, the embodiment of which in his work is at once 
his greatest problem and his keenest pleasure. 



W 



ILD WEATHER : 3RD NOVEMBER 1883.^ 



There was certainly an unwonted bustle in the inn that 
morning. The bar loiterers showed a brisk and some- 
what excited air ; the landlord, one of the stoutest and best-tempered 

1 Both these sketches have the titles they originally bore when published in the Spectator, 
and are reprinted verbatim, for the reasons given above. 
2 C 193 



men in the world, had rolled up his sleeves a trifle higher than was 
usual at eleven o'clock. The old greyhound, ordinarily the only idle 
person allowed on the establishment, wandered to and fro restlessly, 
and poked his nose into one person's hand after another, as if to 
discover what was afloat. Even the young lady from London, who 
was chiefly notable for a crop of ginger curls and a dress-improver 
of the largest size, showed signs of animation. Doors blew open, 
windows rattled, bits of straw and seaweed flew cheerfully in at the 
swing-doors, sea, sky, and wind somehow had gone astray, and were 
poking their noses into the bar-parlour, in imitation of the greyhound. 

It was past eleven ere I had got my camp-stool, canvas, etc., 
packed up for the day's work, and was ready to start. It had been 
blowing hard all night from the south-west, and this was the morning 
of October i8th, when the high tide was foretold. It was strange 
how the wind, or the expected water, or some subtle combination of 
both, had affected the usually torpid inhabitants of Rye. A bold, 
almost buccaneering look, pervaded the people ; the talk was all of 
the river, the sea, and the wind. The dwellers on the march had 
become for once dwellers by the sea, and were evidently proud of the 
fact. 

To my amusement, I was looked upon with considerable respect, 
when it was found I was going down to the port, some two miles off", 
sketching. " You'll find it main rough down there," said the local 
carpenter, who was a bit of an artist in his way — at least so he 
fancied, for he had made the frame for an engraving • of one of 
Gustave Dora's pictures — and the landlord pressed a glass of ginger 
brandy upon me before starting, as a sort of stirrup-cup, I thought, 
in case we should meet no more. 

It was wild weather, certainly : the sky was a misty, thin blue, with 
thousands of small cumulus clouds drifting quickly onwards and 
upwards from the horizon. Every now and then towards the sea 
the wind tore a small space of the sky clear of the drifting rack, and 
disclosed a glistening extent of fleecy clouds, lying in long, close 
ranks against the blue, and looking as though they had never known 
or even heard of wind and storm. The old church and tumbled 
red roofs of the town showed clear and bright, with that brightness 
in which colour seems to be lost even more than in shadow. The 
noises of the shipyards, generally striking the visitor as the chief 
element of life in the town, were gathered up and swept into unison 
with the wind that rushed past them from the sea, and were only 
distinctly audible now and then in a lull. Within two or three feet 
of the old ferry-house, the old ferryman looked down bewildered on 
a turbid, yellow current, which was substituted for the grey mud and 
quiet flow of the river in ordinary times, and said, half proudly, half 

194 



sadly, as he ferried me across to the marsh, " There'll be three feet 
of water in my cottage, if the wind goes round to the north." I left 
him contemplating this prospect, which, by the way, was not realised, 
and set out along the sea-wall. Everything on the way spoke of the 
tide and the gale. The sea-gulls walking about quietly on the fields, 
and scarcely troubling to rise at one's approach ; the cows and sheep 
lying down close to the shelter of the bank which separated the 
marsh and the river ; the river itself spreading widely over its low 
banks, and lapping eagerly against the sea-wall ; the submerged 
fences and gates, and the bare tops of the piles which marked the 
channel, alone showing above the water, 

I must fail to describe, as I failed to realise distinctly, wherein lay 
the keen sense of excitement and pleasure which this scene conveyed, 
— whether it sprang from the contrast of the present appearance with 
the wonted desolate calm of the marsh and low-lying river, whether 
it was merely the bright sunshine mingling with the roar of the wind 
and the shrieks of the sea-gulls, or whether it was the invasion of the 
sea into its old territory — for long ago Rye rose above the waters 
instead of the land. The scene, however, was worth looking at, 
even independent of any such feeling ; and our countrymen who go 
to much expenditure of trouble and money to gaze upon the Roman 
Campagna, might find an easy substitute for many of its chief 
beauties, in their homely Sussex. Here, too, are softly -moulded 
lines of field and heath, here are long sweeps of hills bounding 
a blue distance. Here, too, the colour shifts and changes moment- 
arily with the drifting cloud shadows and flickering sunshine, and 
the eye can rove at pleasure over a plain as apparently boundless 
as the great Campagna sea. If Fairlight is not as high as 
Soracte, it too has a bold precipitous outline, and a character of its 
own ; and the simple tower of the church, which stands out so sharply 
on the crest of its down, might be a campanile, as far as strength and 
grace are concerned. There are no olive trees, and no aqueducts, 
and no tomb of a loving husband to a faithful wife ; but there are old 
houses, whose beauty is twined with the doings of our own people ; 
there is the grey gateway,^ and the massive tower of Rye Church 
crowning the irregular houses, which seem to crowd round and look 
up to it, even as their inhabitants might do ; and underneath the 
tower there are the black masts of the fishing-boats, pointing as with 
outstretched finger in the same direction. And for those who want 
more heroic architecture, and records of war rather than peace, is 
there not Camber Castle to be seen across the foaming water of the 
river ? And, strangely enough, inside its green quadrangle is a 
circular tower, with a course of sculptured stone running around its 
rude masonry, which, if it stood alone on the Campagna, not one in a 
thousand folk would not guess to be Cecilia Metella's. And above 

195 



all, is there not our old friend and safeguard, the sea, hinted at by 
that group of masts on the edge of the marsh, by the sandhills which 
stretch out in long perspective from the port into the distance, and 
by the sea-gulls which fly shrieking above our heads ? Something 
of the spirit of Kingsley comes over the scene, and shouts a glad 
defiance of the wild weather in the teeth of the spray and wind. 

But there was no reaching the port that day, for the rising tide 
rushed feet above the little foot-bridge which led from the sea-wall 
towards the sea, and I was forced to content myself with the view of 
the flooded river and the town beyond. How it blew the palette in 
my face, and plastered madder-lake on the nose, and cadmium 
on the forehead ; how it tore the canvas from my hand (no easel 
could have stood for a minute), and turned it face downwards on the 
rough wiry grass ; how it blew the medium out of the dipper, and 
spread it in a shower upon the middle of the picture ; how I lost hat, 
handkerchief, and temper, need not be recorded, for these are all 
usual accidents of sketching in a gale ; but the game was well worth 
its candle. 

Not often in one's life does one get the chance to see one of 
Nature's best transformation scenes enacted in the very place and 
under the very circumstances which could most enhance its beauty, 
and for many a year the change of that quiet marsh into a seething 
mass of yellow foam, the way in which the wind roared, the sun 
shone, the sea-fowl shrieked, and the hungry water came rushing 
over fence and gate to within a foot of. the crest of the sea-wall, will 
be worth remembering. 

It seemed like coming back to another life, to return to the little 
inn, and find the landlord still serving his customers, the greyhound 
still prowling restlessly, and all folk talking unceasingly of the wild 
weather. 



QUIET weather: Spectator, Zth November 1884 

About a year ago I tried to make a word-photograph of a day's 
doings in rough weather at an old-fashioned south-coast fishing 
village : to-day I want to describe the aspect oF life in the calm, 
grey weather we have been experiencing lately, as it appeared to me 
in a far more out-of-the-way part of England, twenty miles from 
a railway station on the Atlantic shore. 

The slates of the cottages here have little of the cold, purple tint, 
but are varied in faint green and bluish silver; and where the 
gables slope against the grey sea, the sunshine laughs and dances 

196 



upon them almost as it does upon the waves themselves. In front 
of the jagged rocks which border our little cove, the great seine- 
boats lie, massive and dark, dwarfing all the smaller fishing-craft 
into insignificance, waiting for the pilchards, who seem loth to 
appear. In front of the coastguard's cottage, cutting sea and sky 
and rock, and dividing the little landscape into all kinds of irregular 
triangles, rises the inevitable white mast and yard of the retired 
sailor, carrying in this instance a weathercock of native design, 
representing a pilchard whose tail points obstinately seaward, 
irrespective of any change in the weather. 

To the right of the inn window rise whitewashed stone cottages, 
and to the left sink the same; beneath, the road dips by a red 
geranium and a water-butt to the hidden beach. On the low wall 
in front of the window, rooted securely in some crack of its coping- 
stones, flowers a brilliant marigold — the one bright spot in the 
picture. Such a queer, quaint little grey hamlet, where year passes 
after year, bringing no alterations save a few more wrinkles to the 
aged, and a little less laughter to the young, the blustering weather 
of winter and spring, the coming of the pilchards, the flash of the 
world seen now and then in the eyes of a wandering artist, the 
sermons on alternate Sundays at two neighbour villages, — such are 
the matters which form the talk and interest of these folks' lives. 
A still, silent life enough, where small things have to be made the 
most of if one would be content ; and yet one gets to be very fond 
of its peace, which is hardly monotony, of watching the foliage 
change from green to gold, sadden to its winter gown of russet ; to 
note how, as the year declines, the sky covers up its bright summer 
days and wraps itself in masses of fleecing cloud ; how the emerald 
of the sea grows like beaten steel ; and where a band of purple once 
sank into a rosy mist, there is now only a thin grey line against a 
pallid sky. The whole population are fishermen and their allies ; 
and all day the able bodied sit upon a great bank of timber, by the 
side of the lifeboat shed, and smoke, rubbing shoulders together in 
an uncouth fashion, much as one has seen birds upon a perch. They 
all know each other, and are good friends after a silent, unexpansive 
fashion. The property in the fishing-boats is to a certain extent 
common, and brings them closer together, and, like most Cornish- 
men, the habit of their lives is serious and a little sad. And they 
are instinct, too, with a profound natural courtesy towards the 
stranger, very different from the general distrust and suspicion which 
we find in the Midland and Northern counties. Rough they are, 
certainly — stupid, perhaps, according to our Cockney standard of 
intelligence — but it was such men as these that Kingsley, who had 
passed his life amongst them, described ^ finer men, body and 
soul, than the landsmen ; and of all our seamen and fishers there 

197 



are no more stalwart, simple souls to be found in England than 
those who border the land of strangers. 

The influence of the place is mesmeric ; and as day after day 
passes, and autumn paces slowly by its road of golden leaves and 
withered bracken into winter, it grows hourly more difficult to 
believe in the existence of other life than this. The sea, the sky, 
the fishermen lounging, the pilchards that never come, the picture 
on one's easel, the walk after the day's work over moor and down- 
land, the home-coming to the best of inns, with its bright fire 
and brighter faces of welcome, the dinner with a friend, the smoke 
and toddy in the evening, and then the night with the wind sighing 
down the valley — these repeat themselves day by day. Gradually 
one comes to know something about the people — how poor 
Sullivan's wife is dying of consumption, and Stewart's boy must be 
taken to Falmouth to be confirmed, and other matters less serious. 
And occasionally the men come and talk as we paint, and resting 
their broad backs against the wall, point out to each other the 
various objects of the picture, rubbing slow hands over their bristly 
chins meanwhile. There is a sort of tacit agreement that they are 
not to establish themselves behind us while we are at work ; but 
sometimes the temptation is too strong to be resisted, and one 
becomes aware of a shadow on the canvas, and a gruff voice saying, 
"Not that I want to interrupt you, sir." One old fellow of the 
patriarchal age, past doing anything but hobble about the beach 
very slowly, with the help of a couple of sticks, has been exempted 
from the above restriction, and spends a good portion of his morning 
breathing heavily into my ear, and giving me details of his career, 
which presents fewer salient points during its duration of eighty- 
four years than could be well believed. 

"Yes, he has always lived here; and he minds the building of this 
very place " (a fish-cellar, full of miscellaneous sea-lumber, nets, and 
crab-pots, "anchors of rusty fluke^ and boats updrawn"), "ah, more 
than fifty years ago." So, with a final wheeze, he departs, to return 
the next day with the same story ; and in the room overhead the one 
virago of the place recommences scolding and beating her children. 
" Find it pretty noisy down here, sir ? " said a couple of the fish- 
wives, whom I found standing before my easel yesterday. " Her 've 
a long tongue, and a longer arm, her have." It's the old story of two 
families — a dead wife leaving young children, and then a new mistress 
for the house, and a new family, and temper and health alike giving 
way under the double strain, and the result — that terrible chaos of blows, 
reproaches, and tears which makes a hell of so many popr men's homes. 
The boards that roof the cellar are thin, and the voices loud ; and 
iiaving sat under them for three weeks, one is tempted to moralise. 

198 



But this is the only seamy side to the village life. Even poor 
Sullivan's wife, for whom we sent for the priest a few days ago, is 
dying peacefully ; and her little girl stands, with an anxious wistful 
face, at the open cottage door, whilst her big father passes in and 
out, tender as a woman in his care. "She's alive, sir, and that's 
all." Down the steep little path which winds at the back of the 
village up to a ledge of rock, against which the great waves hurl 
themselves for ever vainly, comes the one personage of the place, 
Mr. , proprietor of the seine-boats and employer of the fisher- 
men. He is something like Carlyle in appearance, owing the 
likeness, perhaps, chiefly to his long greatcoat and broad-brimmed 
hat, and he walks stiffly and slowly beneath his weight of seventy- 
six years. Thirty-five of them he has spent here on that little shelf 
of rock (it is literally a shelf, for it ends abruptly in a perpendicular 
fall of cliff into deep water), doing practically nothing but live. 
Despite his life, with only these fishermen for companions, traces of 
a very different society are still clearly visible, touches of geniality 
and social grace peep out in his dry old manner : and one is not 
surprised to find in the little cottage on the rocky ledge a portfolio 
of drawings, and etchings and good pictures upon the walls. All of 
these, however, and all the furniture of his intellectual and social life, 
date half a century back : there the man ceased, and what has lived 
since is merely his outside. Still a pale phantasm of a gentleman 
and a scholar, he walks in and out the rough folks here, amongst 
them, but not of them ; and comes and hovers round the easel of 
a^ wanderer like myself, wanting, not so much to look at the work, as 
to hear the old language of books and pictures which he used to 
speak long ago. After much pressing, he came in one night to chat 
with us, but was pitiably ill at ease. It seemed to force upon him 
too keenly the contrast of his present life with that which he had 
previously known. What it was that scored his face and broke his 
spirit, and sent him down to live in this unknown fishing-hamlet far 
from the ways of men, who shall say ? But he intensifies the 
stillness of the place: and when his tall figure is seen coming 
down the path of a morning, even the sunlight seems to fall more 
quietly upon his rusty coat, and the noise of the water to be almost 
hushed. 

And so the days go on, with life lying behind and before, and 
twenty miles off the train waiting to carry all who will back to the 
great city. Morning after morning out of the same silvery sky 
shines the wistful sun, and the great grey plain of the sea stretches 
softly away to the horizon. Still the pilchard weathercock points to 
the long-expected shoal ; still the fishermen lounge, and growl, and 
smoke; still our pictures grow slowly day by day amid the 
comments, flattering and otherwise, of the villagers ; still we take 

199 



long walks over the moorland, or to where the Lizard lights can be 
seen streaming out into the waning sunset. After all, one cannot 
photograph an atmosphere, and it is a photograph only which I am 
trying to give you. A crude, literal picture of an environment of 
humble life, of toils and duties which there are 

" None to praise, and very few to love," 

but which is, after the rivalries and jealousies of London, almost like 
the peace of God, which passeth all understanding. 



200 




-M. 






' We can only have the highest happiness, such as goes along with being a great man, by 
having wide thoughts and much feeling for the rest of the world as well as ourselves ; 
and this sort of happiness often brings so much pain with it, that we can only tell it from 
pain by its being what we would choose before everything else, because our souls see it 
is good." — ROMOLA. 

" I read a record deeper than the skin." — The Spanish Gypsy. 

THE PAINTING OF GEORGE FREDERICK WATTS, 
R.A. : A COMPARATIVE CRITICISM.^ 

HERE are certain poets whose verse is so melodi- 
ous, whose meaning is so obvious, and whose 
sympathies are so universal, as to attract at once 
all who listen to them. And there are others 
whom we only grow to admire slowly, as our 
knowledge increases — whose language sounds often 
at first uncouth in our ears — whose thoughts and emotions have 
to be searched for diligently, and pondered deeply before they 
are understood ; but who repay the effort of their students with 
a richer harmony than is yielded by those who pipe but as the 
linnets sing. Without wishing to depreciate the bird -like strains 
of the first of these, I may be perniitted to suggest (as Longfellow 
did in his Singers), that they give to youth the joy that their 
more thoughtful contemporaries give to manhood. And though, 
as Greg said, "the bees and the butterflies alike are happy," yet 
they are happy in different ways and from different causes. Is 
it a fanciful idea that there should be pictorial art of an analogous 
kind to the less superficially attractive aspects of poetry and music ? 
I do not see why we are entitled to refuse the same amount of time 
to the comprehension of a great picture, that we should give without 
hesitation to the understanding of a sonnet ; or why we should expect 

* Written in the February number of the Contemporary Review, 1882, on the occasion 
of a collection of Mr. Watts' paintings being exhibited in the Grosvenor Gallery. Some 
further articles on the same subject were published by me at this period in the Times 
and Spectator. 

2 D 201 



a composition which has probably taken months if not years of thought 
and labour to produce, to reveal all its meaning to us as we stroll 
hurriedly round a picture gallery. A wise man once said that no 
great book required much less time in the reading than the author 
had taken in the writing, and a picture, after all, is but an open 
book, where those who have eyes to see can read strange matters. 

This essay attempts to explain the characteristic qualities of Mr. 
Watts' art, to note its imperfections as well as its excellencies, and 
to consider what is its value and its teaching when taken as a whole. 
That such an attempt, made at such a time, must of necessity fail of 
complete success, no one will feel more strongly than the present 
writer. However posterity judges, it will not be from the point of 
view of to-day, and that verdict it is hopeless to anticipate. Without 
attempting, however, to forecast what will be the ultimate value 
assigned to Mr. Watts' painting, we may be pardoned for suggest- 
ing the chief aims which the artist appears to have had in view, the 
chief peculiarities of his style, and the chief points of difference 
between his work and that of other famous English painters. And if 
in this latter connection I have to speak with seeming disparagement 
of those who are high in public favour, I would remind my readers 
that the comparative criticism referred to must only be considered to 
be a part of the truth. It were manifestly impossible, within the limits 
of a Review article, to give more than a general description of the 
aims and methods of the artists, who are incidentally referred to for 
the purpose of comparison, and such general description must fre- 
quently do but scant justice to their full merit. 

In one respect the opportunity afforded by the present collection at 
the Grosvenor Gallery is almost, if not quite, unique. It is, as far as I 
am aware, the first time that anything like a complete collection of an 
artist's pictures have been exhibited in his lifetime, and with his assist- 
ance and approval. It is the more significant when we consider that 
the works in this collection extend over a period of nearly half a cen- 
tury, and that the painter has almost reached the allotted age of man. 
This exhibition may well be considered as a question put by the 
artist to those who are interested in art, and demanding a plain 
answer ; and I can only plead for the answer that is attempted here, 
that it is at least an honest one. It is needless to point out that 
there is one vital difficulty in estimating the works of a living artist 
that does not exist in the criticism of one who has passed over to 
the majority — the difficulty, that is, of describing without offence the 
influences to which his art has been subject through his life ; the way 
in which circumstances have aided, thwarted, or modified the develop- 
ment of his genius. For all imperfection arising from such a cause 
as this, I can but beg my readers' forbearance, as I shall not attempt 
to note any such details. 

202 



Mr. Watts' training as an artist appears to have been a somewhat 
desultory one. He went, first of all, to the Schools of the Royal 
Academy, but gained little good there — at all events, if we may trust 
his own words : Finding there was no teaching, I very soon ceased to 
attend. 

But in the year 1842 he gained a first-class prize of ;^300 for a 
cartoon illustrative of Caractacus led in Triumph through the Streets 
of Rome. This was in one of the competitions held in Westminster 
Hall, which were instituted by the Government for the purpose of 
discovering whether there was any artistic talent applicable to the 
requirements of fresco. The subsequent history of this cartoon is a 
somewhat singular one. For the design was sold with the other 
successful compositions to a private purchaser, and was ultimately 
cut up into pieces which were disposed of separately. The only 
portion of this cartoon at present discoverable is in the possession of 
Sir Walter James. With the money gained by this competition the 
young artist went to Italy, and there devoted himself to the study of 
the older Italian masters ; and only returned to England in time to 
gain another prize of ;^500 for an oil painting representing Alfred 
inciting the English to prevent the Landing of the Danes. This work 
was ultimately purchased for the nation, and has since been in one 
of the waiting-rooms of the House of Lords. It is remarkable for 
the vigour of its composition, and for a certain purity of colour, which 
has something in common with the clear atmosphere of the early pre- 
Raphaelites ; but the chief motive of the picture is evidently derived 
from Tintoretto, to the influence of which master the bold modelling 
of the figures is evidently due. 

The influence of these early works in fresco has never altogether 
faded, and traces of it may be found throughout Mr. Watts' latest 
work. To this time and its associations may be traced the large 
manner, the bold conceptions, the dignity of form and gesture, and 
the somewhat sombre motive of such pictures as Time and Death, 
Tim^ and Oblivion, Love and Death, and many others ; to this, also, 
is due, in considerable measure, many of the faults which, offend the 
casual spectator of Mr. Watts' work. Before,' however, we dwell 
upon this subject' it is interesting to note that the effects of Mr. 
Watts' foreign study showed themselves more in the increased 
scope of his conceptions than in devotion to any special master. 
During his stay in Italy he seems to have been more receptive of 
general impressions than actually engaged in studying the technical 
powers of any individual painter, and he at no time lost sight of that 
sculpturesque ideal of art which is evident even in his earliest works. 
The only exception to this is one grand picture, entitled the Illusions 
of Love, painted in 1849. In it there is more of the ^ctasX painter' s 
quality, as opposed to the sculptor's, than in any other work by this 

203 



artist, and in many ways it rivals the master, of whom it is a manifest 
though unconscious echo. In what may be called lusciousness of 
colouring this picture stands alone ; the glowing tints mix together 
in the ^most exquisite harmony ; the paint seems to be floated on to 
the canvas, rather than put on with a brush. It is an immorally 
beautiful picture, and has the atmosphere of youth and strength and 
passionate desire floating round it like a cloud. And yet there is 
nothing more certain than that, had the artist gone on painting in 
this manner, he would never have become truly great. For great- 
ness in art never comes by repetition ; no matter how accurate, it 
must be essentially new, if it exists at all. From this abyss into 
which so many good men have fallen, Mr. Watts was saved by two 
causes. The one was, that he was too intellectual and earnest a man 
to rest contented with mere technical perfection ; the other was his 
devotion to Greek sculpture. If it be true, as is no doubt the case, 
that he would have in many ways painted better had he confined 
himself to painting alone, it is true also that though his pictures 
would have been more perfect, they would have been less beautiful 
— they would have lost in dignity of form more than they gained in 
beauty of detail. And another point in this connection must be 
briefly touched upon. There is one difference between the best 
sculpture and the best painting the world has ever known which 
is very commonly overlooked — the difference in its appeal to the 
purely human sympathies. Painting may claim, and, indeed, always 
has claimed, our attention for kings, prophets, and warriors, martyrs, 
angels, and madonnas, surrounded with every circumstance of their 
glory. Its magnificence of colour, its elaborate combinations of form, 
its sublimity of conception, are powerful, to some degree, to blind us 
to the purely human fact that lies at the root of the conception, and 
we may go away from many a glorious picture, thinking more of its 
technique and accessories than of aught else. But sculpture has 
none of these diversities to attract us from its main fact. At its very 
finest it can but give us a perfect human body, instinct with one simple 
emotion. Unless, therefore, its appeal is founded upon what we all 
recognise as true and worthy, it must indubitably fail. It is this 
quality which has been present in Mr. Watts' work throughout his 
life — this power of, so to speak, stripping the soul-wrappings oflT his 
subject, and getting at its real essence. And there is one point on 
which it has affected his paintings very markedly. If you study 
carefully the best Grecian sculpture, you cannot .avoid being power- 
fully impressed by the fact of the strange impersonality of the statues 
themselves ; the absence therefrom of all the little tiny individual 
details that make up personality. I wish to guard against being 
misunderstood to mean by this that they lack character; on the 
contrary, there is the fullest and clearest expression of character in 
each face, but it is character in essentials, not followed out into 

204 



intricacies and eccentricities — there are no pollarded willows or 
grafted roses amongst that noble company. An examination of Mr. 
Watts' paintings reveals the fact that, in this matter, his practice is 
identical with that of the ancient sculptors — his characters are the 
most impersonal that can be conceived ; it is not only from their 
faces, but from their bodies and movements, that every personal 
detail is avoided or merged in the general impression. This would 
not, perhaps, be wonderful, if the artist were to obtain the effect by 
the adoption and repetition of a certain type, such as, for instance, 
the type of face adopted by Mr. Burne-Jones from Botticelli, or the 
type of drapery adopted by the same master from Mantegna. But 
there is nothing of this kind to be noted in Mr. Watts' work. Take, 
as an example, the pictures of Daphne and Psyche, the only two 
entirely nude female figures in the exhibition. Here the faces and 
the characteristics of the bodies are as different as it is well possible 
for them to be, and yet the same impersonal air is clearly over 
them both. The one stands straight and stiff by her broken 
lamp, with a sorrow as yet unrealised upon her face ; she is 
scarcely more than a child — her 

" Poor girl's blood, 
Scarce sun-warmed yet with summer " ; 

her head droops, her arms hang listlessly by her sides, her whole 

figure expresses dejection and innocent grief; the thin grey light of 

early dawn wraps her body as a mist. The other is a woman in the 

pride of her beauty, her limbs glowing with warm colour, her body 

thrown a little backward, her arm, raised above her head, touching the 

myrtle into which she is to be changed — a picture of infinite beauty 

and power, 

" Mixed with scent of roses over-ripe, 
And murmur of the summer afternoon !" 

The consideration of this peculiar quality of our painter's art is 
closely connected with the old controversy between Realism and 
Idealism, in the artistic, not the metaphysical, use of those terms. To 
which camp does Mr. Watts belong ? I should say to neither, or to 
both ; and this may, perhaps, be made best evident by a few examples. 
A realist is simply a pre-Raphaelite, one who paints things as well as 
he can, in a manner as like as possible to what he sees or imagines 
to have been the case. And idealists are those who think they can 
improve Nature by alteration, who like to paint events and actions, 
not as they are or were, but as they prettily might have been. Such 
is really the substance of the famous dictum of Mr. Ruskin on pre- 
Raphaelitism, and will do equally well for our purpose. But these 
words Realism and Idealism have got mixed up in a good many 
people's minds with imagination and the lack thereof; till, perhaps, 
most people who use them in art, give to every work which is at all 

205 



poetical or imaginative the name of ideal, and to every literal copy of 
Nature the name of real. The difficulty of using either word cor- 
rectly with regard to Mr, Watts lies in the fact that, though he is in 
his main points a decided pre-Raphaelite, as all of his imaginative 
works prove, yet his practice, to some extent, is that of the idealist's, 
inasmuch as he translates and generalises many of the facts he attempts 
to deal with. Thus, for instance, in dealing with the nude model, the 
last thing which Mr. Watts does in his pictures is to suggest details 
of his subject as, say, Mr. Alma-Tadema suggested them in the 
painting of The Sculptor's Model, exhibited at the Academy a few 
years since ; ^ or as Mr. Millais did, in his picture of The Knight 
Errant ; or as, to take a better example than either, Mr. Lefebvre 
suggests them in all his later works. It is excessively difficult to 
explain exactly in what difference of treatment this result consists ; it 
is, at least, as much due to a method of mental action, as a method 
of handling the brush, and the pencil, that produces the effect. Artists 
regard (what they call in studios) the figure in very different lights. 
To one man it is a collection of muscles, another sees chiefly the frame- 
work on which the muscles are stretched, a third sees only the form 
which some pet old masters saw, and models his conception from 
that, another sees nothing under the skin, and another sees only a 
woman stripped of her clothes. Now, any or all of these methods 
are practised in modern art, and all are wrong ; neither muscles, 
skin, bones, the treatment of the old masters, nor the representation 
of an individual woman, is the true manner to study the figure. The 
fact to be studied lies, not only on the outside of the body, or even 
the inside, but it comprehends also that which makes the body noble. 
Call it what we like — sense, spirit, intellect, soul — that is the added 
factor that removes the painting of the nude from the region of the 
hospital to the region of the studio. If a painter does not see that 
in the human body, his pictures bear inevitable witness to the fact, 
and, no matter how beautifully they are painted, can never be other- 
wise than offensive. Ruskin said, long since, the souls of men are to 
be studied in their bodies, not their bodies only. Mulreadys drawings 
from the nude are more bestial and degraded than the worst grotesques 
of the Byzantine or even the Indian image-makers. 

Amongst our other great painters, there are only four who can be 
said to seriously attempt to paint the nude figure : these are, Sir 
Frederick Leighton, Mr. Edward Burne-Jones, Mr. E. J, Poynter, 
and, occasionally, Mr. Albert Moore and Mr. Alma - Tadema, 
the latter a Belgian by birth. Of these artists, Sir Frederick 
Leighton's method is probably the hardest to characterise in a few 
words, if only because it combines such various qualities. This most 
accomplished artist has studied in the chief schools of England, France, 

1 The model's feet, for instance, were quite red with standing in the cold. 

206 



Germany, and Italy ; and one result of the various teaching he has 
undergone has been to make him a sort of artistic Achitophel. He has 
been too much taught to have learnt anything worth the learning; like 
some of the unfortunate youths who take high honours at their university, 
he has more knowledge than he knows what to do with ; and while 
capable of painting anything in any style, he feels little inclination to use 
his powers for purposes of expression. The contours of a woman's back, 
the softness of a woman's limbs, the sweetness of a woman's eyes, and 
the languor of a woman's love — these are nearly all the subjects that 
occupy his pencil, and, as might be expected, the continual pruning 
away of human imperfections and human emotions to which he has 
subjected his pictures, has resulted in their having but little interest, 
and even in the best sense of the word, but little beauty. The 
loveliness that "comes from no secret of proportion, but from the 
secret of deep human sympathy," is alien to Sir Frederick Leighton's 
work, and he keeps, as far as his pictures tell us, no corner of his 
heart for " the few in the fore-front of the great multitude whose 
faces we know, whose hands we touch, for whom we have to make 
way in kindly courtesy." This want of sympathy shows clearly 
enough in the artist's treatment of the figure, which, with all its 
delicate correctness, has a smoothness and softness that are not of 
Nature. Under the delicate peach-bloom of his maidens' cheeks, and 
the clear brown skin of his athletes, there is felt the same want of 
reality ; his lovers whispering in the twilight, as in last year's Academy 
picture, call forth little emotion ; they are as unhuman in their per- 
fection as the voices of the earth and air in Shelley's Prometheus. 

Hands that have done no work, and hearts that have known no 
sorrow — soft robes that have never been soiled with rain or torn by 
storm — a blue sky above their heads, and a fruitful earth beneath 
their feet, and an atmosphere of the land where it seems always after- 
noon — such are the actors and their surroundings of Sir Frederick 
Leighton's later works ; is it any wonder that they have little appeal 
for us who live, girt by the beating of the steely sea, in an age which 
has certainly little in common with that of Arcady ? 

In fact. Sir Frederick Leighton plays upon the human body with 
as much skill and with as much indifference as a practised musician, 
and one day, perhaps, he will be astonished to learn that 

" There is much marvellous music in'this little pipe " 

that he cannot compel to utterance. 

With Mr. Poynter the case is very different. He stands, 
indeed, with regard to his art, almost at the opposite pole to Sir 

207 



Frederick Leighton. His training has been of the most insular 
kind ; his sympathies with modern art are very slight ; his power is 
of a peculiar, hard, resolute character ; his draughtsmanship has never 
succeeded in making itself harmonious in general effect ; what the 
French call les grands contours du dessin, are singularly absent from 
his drawing of the figure, which commonly presents us with a man or 
a woman whose limbs seem to have come together somewhat fortuit- 
ously, and to be on the point of dislocation. With all this there is in 
this artist's work an impression of earnestness and well-directed effort 
that goes far to render it of real value. If some of his figures look 
as if 

" Some of Nature's journeymen had made men, 
And not made them, well," 

nevertheless, there is generally to be found in each some real truth of 
action or form, and he is, perhaps, the only living English artist who 
at the present time habitually struggles with the problems of drawing 
presented by the muscles when in violent action. It is not my pur- 
pose to give a description of Mr. Poynter's merits, but to point out 
that his conception of the figure is inadequate for two reasons — of 
which, indeed, either would be sufficient. It is not beautiful form : 
there is some personal incapacity to understand or to care for beauty 
of outline, and its place is supplied, as best it may be, by industry 
and by delineation of varied action. Take any quiescent figure of Mr. 
Poynter's you like as an example, and examine it carefully, and you 
will inevitably find this lack of grace. The quality is one that evi- 
dently does not appeal to the painter. The second reason is that Mr. 
Poynter's conception of the human figure is not his own, but is bor- 
rowed from Michael Angelo, and he has, like most imitators, copied 
rather the accidents than the essence of his master's greatness. I 
cannot spare time to dwell upon this characteristic ; it is sufficient 
here to say that it causes him to give undue prominence to the muscles 
and their action, and is in no small measure answerable for the ugli- 
nesses of form which are of frequent occurrence in his work. 

Mr. Edward Burne-Jones is an artist of very different calibre from 
either of the above-named, and one whose most delightful qualities 
are little connected with his drawing of the figure, which is, indeed, 
in his work, almost always partially draped. But as he is at the 
present time the representative man of the pre-Raphaelites, and as 
his work is in its way of very exquisite quality, we must say a few 
words upon his art. 

The reading of life which Mr, Burne-Jones' compositions show is 
as essentially mediaeval Italian in its character as Sir Frederick 
Leighton's is degenerate Greek. The glory of the body itself, and 
the fear of the body itself, is the keynote to these two painters' work 

208 



— the conception, respectively, of the athlete and the ascetic. But 
the curious turn of mind which has, in Mr. Burne-Jones, grafted the 
passions of the athlete upon the mind of the ascetic, is one for 
which we can scarcely find a parallel in the history of art. Never, 
probably, before has an artist devoted himself to the representation of 
love and beauty with so shuddering a conscience, and so overpower- 
ing a sympathy. Not only loving but love-sick are all his char- 
acters — their love oppresses as a physical suffering — their heads and 
bodies droop beneath it. , 

We have had discussions ad nauseam as to the morality or im- 
morality of Mr. 'Burne-Jones' pictures, and I certainly do not intend to 
enter upon one here ; but I wish to point out how incompatible with 
any worthy rendering of the human figure is the state of mind that I 
have just hinted at above. In art as in religion it is true that perfect 
love casteth out fear, and the mediaeval conception of love was, as 
Kingsley says in more than one of his books, a wholly vitiated one, 
founded upon fear and ignorance. For the rest, Mr. Burne-Jones' 
study and drawing of the nude have not been carried out to anything 
like the same extent as the masters of whom we have been speaking, 
and he has never attained mastery of the contours of the figure as a 
whole. Something of the archaicism of Botticelli and Mantegna 
clings to him still, and, to go no further than one of his peculiarities, 
he is apt to reduce both men and women to a type which, while par- 
taking of the character of both, is a perfect representation of neither. 

This somewhat long digression was necessary to show why I rank 
Mr. Watts' painting of the nude figure, in certain essential respects, 
above that of any of our English artists, since it comprises a 
greater number of the more vital requisites of figure-painting than 
is to be found elsewhere in England ; nor do I know any living 
artist, with perhaps the single exception of Henner, who excels Watts 
in this respect. The vital requisites to which allusion . is made are 
these, arranged as nearly as possible in order of value — dignity of 
form and gesture (attained by the most thorough knowledge, com- 
bined with the power of separating and rejecting all irrelevant and 
incompatible details); purity, the result, not of one quality of mind or 
hand, but of habitual thought ; power, the result of working habitually 
on a large scale, and on subjects of adequate importance. These 
three are the most essential qualities in figure-painting, and in all 
these Mr. Watts' work leaves little or nothing to be desired. His 
failures, indeed, are intimately connected with his merits, since they 
almost invariably arise from the undertaking of some conception 
too involved in meaning, or too gigantic in size, to be adequately 
carried out in oil painting. Such works as the enormous head and 
bust of Satan in this gallery, and the still larger composition entitled 
2 E 209 



Time and Oblivion, are in their very nature unsuited for oil-pictures. 
They are incomplete dreams upon subjects unadapted for pictorial 
representation in any complete manner, and should have been done, 
if done at all, only in the roughest description of fresco, over some 
dark archway, or on the apse of some great cathedral. Not that they 
do not possess many great beauties (the gesture, for instance, with 
which Oblivion sweeps her dark robes round her face as she hurries 
towards the grave, is one of the grandest pieces of expressional form 
I remember to have seen), but that those beauties only serve to make 
us regret the necessary incompleteness of the whole. Again, few 
people, I think, can have noticed the half-nude figure entitled Arcadia, 
without feeling that it strikes one of the few false notes in this 
master's work. The reason is manifest : we only dwell in Arcadia 
once in our lives, and never after the questions of life and thought 
have begun to perplex and sadden us. Mr. Watts' female figure has 
none of the innocent gladness and belief that she should typify. He 
has tried hard to make her glad, and has only succeeded in making 
her embarrassed ; it is one of the few occasions where he has not felt 
his subject. Such failures are not numerous ; out of the two hundred 
pictures here there are hardly twenty that miss their point in meaning, 
and nearly all of these are examples in which the artist has departed 
from what we may perhaps be allowed to call his usual line of 
business. A thoughtful man playing at thoughtlessness, is a very 
charming spectacle if successful, but approaches dangerously near to 
failure. Few of those who habitually feel the significance of life can 
lay aside their knowledge even for an hour. 

And this brings me to the consideration of the chief imperfections 
in our Master's work ; imperfections of which the presence is manifest 
to all who look at the pictures, though few take the trouble to 
thoroughly investigate their shortcomings, or seek for their origin. 
The fact remains, that oi the. perfection which is the mark of the greatest 
art, we find little trace here. Hardly any of the pictures strike us 
with the irresistible impressions of Tightness that we gain from work 
which has been executed with perfect knowledge. They are rather 
like the actions of Dorothea Casaubon, the " offspring of a certain 
spiritual grandeur, ill-matched with the meanness of opportunity." 
The purely artistic side of art — the use, that is, in absolute perfection 
of the brush, the pencil, and the colour — has always been the side 
of his work which has had least attraction for Mr. Watts. Caring 
very greatly for the result, he has never — or, at least, so I think — cared 
quite sufficiently for the means whereby it could be best attained. 
Both in thought and action, the superficial has had for him little 
fascination ; and the life-long study of means, which so many artists 
make the occupation and even aim of their lives, has been to him 
only a stumbling-block. It was the habit of his mind, as it was of 

2IO 



Savonarola's, to conceive great things, and to feel that he was the man 
to do them ; and this has been at once his weakness and his strength. 
His weakness, in urging him to the continual adoption of great 
undertakings without reference to his powers of health and the 
circumstances of his life ; and his strength, in encouraging him under 
the neglect of his finest works. It is a somewhat pathetic little line 
that appears under most of the largest works now exhibiting at the 
Grosvenor Gallery, though it only contains four words — Little 
Holland House Gallery ; for Little Holland House is, I need hardly 
tell my readers, Mr. Watts' own dwelling, and the pictures therein 
are his. Trying to trace the artist's mind in his pictures, I think, 
shows us something more as to the causes of his comparative failures. 
His is a dreamer with a purpose. And, alas ! dreamers should have 
no motive. Kubla Khan would not be improved by the addition of a 
moral. Perhaps the difference between the greatest art and that which 
just fails to be the greatest (leaving out for the moment all question of 
technique) is that the first is rather a motive power to great thoughts, 
and that the second embodies, or strives to embody, some special 
thesis — a difference that may be exemplified by that between a 
symphony by Beethoven and an opera by Wagner. 

In all Mr. Watts' large works, the thought has predominated 
over the expression, or at least the thought has been enforced 
to the utmost of the painter's power. And it is as distinctly an 
error for art to be markedly moral as it is for it to be the 
reverse. With stronger health, and with a slightly less sombre 
habit of mind, Mr. Watts' works would have swept away their 
excess of thought, in their splendour of colour and composition. 
Had the artist not taken life quite so hardly, his pictures would have 
gained to a very considerable extent. As it is, there is scarcely one 
of the finest of the imaginative works which is not either distinctly 
mournful in subject or depressed in spirit. And this is shown with 
wonderful clearness on an examination of the landscapes. We can 
fancy some robust squire saying, " Surely this cannot be meant for 
England ; this sad, grey, green country, without life, or colour, or air, 
whose leaden skies hang heavily over dull brown trees, and even the 
green fields seem to have a livid unwholesome look." And yet 
these landscapes are beautiful, if we take them simply for what they 
are — notes of depression cast into the shape of pictures. With much 
of the poetry of Corot, Millet, and Rousseau, but with a deeper, 
more satisfying harmony of colour, they combine a solemnity of feeling 
which is none the less remarkable for its being evidently unsought, 
and they are curiously free from the morbid feeling of such land- 
scapes as those of Mr. Cecil Lawson, or the academicism of M. 
Legros. The matter may be shortly summed up by saying that the 
life of beauty has had no existence for Mr. Watts, unless it has been 

211 



of such a kind as to enable him to connect it in his own mind, or in the 
mind of others, with great thoughts or interests. The one order of 
beauty which, as George Eliot said in Adam Bede, " seems made to 
turn the head, not only of men, but of all intelligent mammals, even of 
women," has had no attraction for him, or at least not until he could find 
in it some trace of emotion, some hint of suffering, or thwarted circum- 
stance. Thus the beauty of a woman's flesh, which may probably 
be considered the most purely sensuous phase of beauty in the world, 
has almost invariably been ignored by him ; while the lines of her 
form, which he was able to connect with Greek art, have been 
his greatest delight. Continually in his pictures do we find the flesh 
of a crude and almost repulsive colour, and possessing none of the 
finer qualities of surface. With these few remarks upon Mr. Watts' 
shortcomings, I must leave the subject ; but before proceeding, 
I must, at the risk of wearying my readers, say a few words upon 
the peculiarities of colour and arrangement in his pictures. 

Like most masters who have been engaged in fresco, he uses 
but little medium in his work, and paints comparatively dry. In 
this respect his later pictures differ considerably from his earlier 
work, and the difference may perhaps be understood when I 
say that they rather resemble Tintoretto than Titian. One of 
his chief theories in painting is to depend a great deal upon the 
purity of his ground colour ; and this he always strives to preserve 
or restore throughout the painting. One result of this method 
is that his newly -finished works are very frequently of somewhat 
dead and heavy appearance, and only show their full qualities of 
colour when, after the lapse of a year or two, they come to be 
varnished. It will be noticed by the visitors to the Grosvenor 
Gallery, that, chiefly from this cause, many of the early pictures 
are apparently much richer in colour than those which have 
been lately executed. Mr. Watts has also considerably modified 
his scheme of colour of late years. This has altered from bright to 
rich, and a certain quality of tint, which might almost be called 
garish, has entirely disappeared. One of the chief peculiarities of 
the artist is the very full range of his present colour harmonies, for 
in each of the three primaries he seems to find almost equal delight. 
Perhaps the majority of his works are chiefly concerned with modifi- 
cations of yellowish brown and blue, but he is likewise very skilful 
in the introduction of scarlet and crimson draperies, as, for instance, 
in the great portrait of Sir Frederick Leighton, exhibited in the 
Academy of 1881, and one of his latest pictures (not exhibited at 
the Grosvenor) is a study in various tones of red. The drapery, 
however, which the artist has employed lately for some of his chief 
pictures, such as those of Love and Death, and Orpheus and Eury- 
dice, is of a peculiar greenish grey, and is perhaps the least satis- 

212 



factory note of colour throughout his work. When employed on 
large surfaces, as in the pictures above mentioned, it gives a cold, 
monumental character to the work, which, though dramatically 
appropriate to the subject, is decidedly injurious to the beauty of the 
picture. We can hardly tell what will be the exact effect of age 
upon these grey robes, but the employment of so much cold colour 
must always be injurious to the effect of the picture, and throughout 
the work of the great colourists of the Venetian and Florentine 
schools we rarely meet with tertiary hues disposed in such masses 
as to practically form the keynote of the picture. 

In main effect Mr. Watts' work may perhaps be best described 
as bearing the same relation to Reynolds as that of Tintoretto to 
Titian, and indeed this parallel would hold good in several ways. 
His most peculiar powers in this respect are shown in his mastery 
over low tones of grey and green, as, for instance, in the picture of 
The Dove returning to the Ark, or the Psyche alluded to above. 
In the management of these shades he may be called emphatically a 
great colourist, one of the greatest ; and if I hesitate to bestow this 
title upon him with regard to all his work, it is only because his 
pictures, which are constructed on a scheme of full colour, seem to 
me to lack the joyousness and serenity that always accompany the 
work of really splendid colourists. A few shades of the prison-house, 
always linger over their brightness ; there are to be found in every 
one notes of imperfection, weariness, and — I had almost said — 
failure. In several, too, of the earlier works, where brightness has 
been ohiefly aimed at, and where the colours employed are kept 
comparatively pure, there is a lack of that deep satisfying lustre, as 
of a cut-open precious stone, that marks the greatest work. 

Those of my readers who are acquainted with the works of Venetian 
masters, will be at no loss to understand my meaning, and for those 
who are not some hint of it may be gathered by them if they remem- 
ber some of the early work of Mr. Millais, and the pictures of Mr. 
Burne-Jones, Mr. Holman Hunt, and Mr. Rossetti. Or, perhaps, a 
more perfect example still (more perfect, because unallied with 
deficiencies of feeling or perversities of mind) is to be found in the 
early pictures of Mr. Hook, R.A. Such compositions as The 
Trawlers and Luff, Boy! have all the richness of the Venetian 
colouring, if not all the splendour. To this beauty Mr. Watts has 
never been able to attain, though in one or two pictures — for 
instance, the work in the Grosvenor Gallery of A Lady playing the 
Piano, and the Illusions of Life — we find sonie approach to it. 

Into the causes of this failure to attain the power which is the 

213 



rarest, and, I hold, the most precious of all artistic capabilities, it is 
needless to inquire closely. I may, however, point out that the 
colour harmonies of Mr. Watts' work fail, where they fail at all, 
with a frank confession of imperfection that is very far removed 
from total failure. Indeed, in his colouring, as in his draughtsman- 
ship, and in the composition of his pictures, this artist's frankness of 
speech is at once his greatest charm and the occasion of his severest 
criticism. If any pictures ever told a spectator that their painter 
saw heights to which he could not approach, depths which he could 
not fathom, and meanings which he could not explain, these com- 
positions tell the tale ; and as the majority of people admire the 
cocksureness of Macaulay more than the pregnant hints of Carlyle, 
so do most picture -lovers prefer artists whose pictorial speech is 
clear and unhesitating, and who feel no incapacity because they 
(like people who are short-sighted) have a keener vision for little 
things near at hand. There are few topics more alluring to the 
majority of commonplace minds than the imperfections of the great 
in any walk of life, and it was not to be supposed that the general 
public, which understood neither the aims nor the difficulties which 
guided and perplexed Mr. Watts in his pictures, would refrain 
from harsh criticism of an artist wh'o confessed himself only a 
student in his art. And this became more certainly the case owing 
to Mr. Watts' practice of exhibiting great works in an incomplete 
state — a practice which, however objectionable in itself, was in this 
case the only alternative to not exhibiting at all — an alternative 
which, I may remark in passing, was frequently chosen. 

I have said very little about Mr. Watts' peculiarities of drawing, 
and shall hardly touch upon that subject, both because it is one 
which can hardly be rendered interesting to the general reader, and 
because any criticism of its technicalities that would be worthy of 
the name, would stretch beyond endurable limits an article which is, 
I fear, already too long. If it were possible to characterise his 
method shortly with reference to draughtsmanship, I should say that 
the leading quality was a large pre-Raphaelitism — pre-Raphaelitism, 
that is, divested of its eccentricities and laborious shortcomings, 
and directed to the heart of the subject-matter rather than to its 
outside. It is quite certain, I think, that the body of man is 
regarded by the artist much after the fashion of Carlyle in Sartor 
Resartus — it is only "the garment thou see'st him by" ; and this 
method of thought affects the method of the hand, and gives a certain 
amount of subtle generalisation to the artist's compositions. Much 
as a man who can read never looks at a book, even unopened on 
a shelf, quite in the same way as a man who cannot, so an artist 
who can read the soul, cannot ever draw form quite in the same way 
as one who reads and draws the body only. Some foolish critics 

214 



have spoken about not liking this figure's attitude, or that figure's 
limbs, or the other figure's flesh-painting, not apparently remember- 
ing that, in most cases, the works to which they were objecting 
were wholly unfinished, and that, moreover, an artist may fairly 
claim to be judged by the mass of his work, especially when it is all 
exhibited together, as in the Grosvenor Gallery. It is as absurd to 
talk or write about Mr. Watts not knowing the proportions of the 
human figure, as it would have been to tell Mr. Street that he did 
not know the elements of Gothic, or to explain to Mr. Huxley that 
he was ignorant of the theories of evolution. And the absurdity 
culminates when proceeding, as such criticisms generally do pro- 
ceed, from critics who never drew a figure in their lives. Of all 
things in the world to criticise with any chance of being right, the 
drawing of the figure is the hardest, even in its most straight- 
forward kind, and when it comes to criticising generalised form 
— as opposed to anatomical form — it needs half a lifetime spent in 
actual study of the nude, to tell when, how, and where a drawing is 
wrong — and right. 

I made, in an earlier portion of this article, a comparison between 
the treatment of the figure by Mr. Watts, and by some other of the 
greatest English living painters — somewhat perhaps to the dis- 
advantage of the latter ; in justice, I must say a word or two to 
explain the comparative rank of Mr. Watts as a draughtsman, and, 
as I have hinted at his excellencies, mention his defect. It is, 
undoubtedly, a deficiency of delicacy in outline, a tendency to 
substitute masses for refinement of form, and to lose sight of the 
beauty which comes from what is generally known as subtle draw- 
ing. Much of this is connected inseparably with his methods of 
thought and conception of art ; but he would probably never have 
been able to gain a delicate beauty of outline such as we see in Sir 
Frederick Leighton's work — outlines, that is, where each line seems 
dependent upon the other, and where all blend together in perfect 
unity.^ Or, to take another instance, he would never be able to 
touch the tenderness of drawing with which Mr. Burne- Jones 
executes his pencil heads. In this latter instance, the quality of the 
work is as indefinable as the scent of a flower, or the touch upon the 
violin of a great musician. We perceive the effect, and that is all. 
In Mr. Watts' best drawing there is something of ruggedness, as of 
one who, after a day spent in hot battle, should come home and try 
to touch softly the face of his sleeping child — the hand is kind and 
true, but it is heavy, and has been trained to sterner work. 
These shortcomings are visible, too, in his treatment of drapery, 
which is always well-disposed, but has an appearance as of the sharp 
marks of the chisel left upon an unfinished statue. Sweeping finely 

^ I think now that the foregoing statement needs niodification. 

215 



in the main contours, it hardly clings to and emphasises the form of 
the body ; with much of the nobility of draperies in the Greek statues, 
there is little of their mystery, intricacy, and softness. Those who 
will think of the work of Mr, Albert Moore, will understand my 
meaning when I say that Mr. Watts' work is, in this respect, 
singularly imperfect for one who in other respects so thoroughly 
understands and preserves the spirit of Greek art. 

But it is a curious fact that much attention bestowed upon 
draperies, and great excellence in their delineation, has always 
been a sign of artists whose sympathies were less wide than 
they were accurate — who preferred form to spirit. Compare, for 
instance, the works of the Byzantines and Cimabue with that of 
Giotto — the work of Mantegna with that of Andrea del Sarto — 
the work of Carpaccio with Bellini, and that of Veronese with 
Tintoretto. 

Perhaps the truth of the matter is that the imaginative faculty, 
when existing at all, can only exist as an imperious master, and 
will not suffer the introduction into its domain of more than a 
certain amount of alien matter. A man who can create, either in. 
poetry, painting, or music, is hardly the master of how he will 
create, or what — except in those rarest of all cases in which, as 
in Shakespeare, the imaginative power is balanced by an equal 
amount of intellectual judgment. Intensest feeling, and the power 
to weigh and distribute that feeling with perfect impartiality, is, 
I suppose, the highest outcome of genius, and gives us a Dante 
or Shakespeare. Neither of these is our painter, but an imperfect 
man, struggling with the utterance of noble conceptions, and ex- 
periencing many a bad fall in the attempt. Not for that should 
we despise his partial achievements, or forget Blake's wise dictum 
that 

" The errors of a wise man make your rule. 
Rather than the perfections of a fool." 

Mr. Watts' painting is open to the same reproach : " erring and 
imperfect," as Mr. Stevenson says in Virginibus Puerisgtie, "but 
filled with a struggling radiancy of better things, and adorned with 
ineffective qualities." 

I must say a few words as to Mr. Watts' treatment of the various 
imaginative subjects upon which he has chiefly expended his energies 
— subjects which may be roughly classified as Religious and Poetic. 
His manner of dealing with the former of these subjects is 
essentially an undogmatic one, and is, perhaps, a typical example 
of the present state of uncertainty and unrest. As far as I can 
read these pictures, they shadow forth a state of mind in which 

216 



the great problems of life and death, redemption and salvation, 
have received no adequate solution, but in which Christianity and 
its teachings form the symbols through which the artist expresses 
his belief in a Creator, and in some moral government of the 
universe. Such works as Dedicated to all the Churches, the 
Sketches for the Progress of Creation, The Creation and Tempta- 
tion of Eve, The Return of the Dove, and others, illustrate the 
Christian legend with an amount of sorrowful unrest that has 
nothing in it of dogmatic assurance. They seem rather symbolical 
appeals to some unshaped faith, th.an records of facts in which belief 
is certain ; but, however this may be (arid I am far from wishing 
to draw any conclusion from the pictures that is at all strained), 
there can be no doubt that the subjects are treated sadly, and the 
personal motive of the pictures is depression. I do not remember 
a sadder picture than that of the dove resting on the stump of 
a tree, after her last flight from the ark,^ and the one which shows 
her return with the olive branch, is almost equally dreary. In the 
other pictures the sadness is impersonal, but they all seem troubled, 
and the rendering of each scene frequently dwells upon the 
element of disturbance, the motive of the conception being that 
which Newman hints at, in the following quotation from the 
Apologia : — 

" Starting, then, with the being of a God, which, as I have said, is 
as certain to me as the certainty of my own existence, — though, 
when I try to put the grounds of that certainty into logical shape, 
I find a difficulty in doing so in word and figure to my satisfac- 
tion, — I look out of myself into the world of men, and there I 
see a sight which fills me with unspeakable distress. The world 
seems simply to give the lie to that great truth of which my 
whole being is so full ; and the effect upon me is, in consequence, 
as a matter of necessity, as confusing as if it denied that I am 
in existence myself." 

If we turn for a moment from the religious or quasi -religious 
pictures, to the few where Mr. Watts has taken for subjects the 
incidents of ihodern life, we see this bias of thought still more 
strongly. Found Drowned, Under a Dry Archway, The Irish 
Famine — such are the subjects of the artist's choice, and their 
treatment is characterised by the sternest realism. No modern 
painter with whom I am acquainted has touched with so unsparing, 
and yet so sympathetic a hand, the problem of woman's degradation, 
and we must notice as a curious fact that, in the treatment of 
this subject, Mr. Watts' work becomes, for the first time, purely 
realistic. His largest picture of this kind, another example of 

1 This picture was not included in the Grosvenor Gallery collection. 
2 F 217 



Found Drowned, is not in the Gallery. This is an early and com- 
paratively hardly painted work, but possesses many good qualities, 
and that interest that attaches to plain speech on a subject where 
folks are habitually reticent. But the picture of the woman dying 
in the dawn under the archway, which is here exhibited, is far 
finer, and, despite the almost ghastly misery of the subject's face, 
far more beautiful.^ Underneath, there hangs a portrait study of a 
fair young girl, with not a line of trouble marring the softness of 
her face, or the roundness of her cheek ; not a fold of her fresh 
dress crumpled or awry. She is in profile, her sweet lips parted 
as if in the act of speaking — delicate, fresh, and fair, and sweet as 
English air can make her. She might stand there, in her gentle 
beauty, 

" Whole ages long, the whole world through, 
For preachings of what God can do." 

And above hangs the picture of the tramp, crouching against the 
cold masonry of the arch, and shivering closer into her wretched 
shawl. The juxtaposition — one, we suppose, of pure chance — is 
very striking, but it is good to remember that the same hand 
painted both works, and that, perhaps, if the artist had not felt 
sympathy for the misery of the one, he had never been able to 
express the purity and grace of the other. 

The problem of such a contrast is too grave to be touched 
upon here ; let me rather say a few words upon the large, 
imaginative works, which form so striking an element in this 
exhibition. Some of them are finished pictures, but most of them 
can hardly be described as more than the first statements of the 
thought which the painter intends to illustrate. They may be 
divided roughly into works of fancy and works of thought — the 
former being attempts at striking a lighter chord of meaning ; 
the latter expressing chiefly the artist's habitual mood. Of these 
classes we may say at once, that the first is the least attractive, 
and few of the examples can be considered altogether successful. 
Such pictures as Mischief, for instance, remind us painfully with 
how much lighter a hand such a painter as Etty would have touched 
the subject, and how little Mr. Watts has been able to express 
any intelligible conception of the scene. The Arcadia, too, to 
which we referred above, is a total failure in feeling, and 
represents simply a half- nude model in a rather unfortunate 
attitude. So, again, with such compositions as Fata Morgana, 
The Infant Hercules tended by Nymphs (unfinished), and, worst 
of all, Ariadne deserted by Theseus, we find no interest and 
little beauty. They are awkward attempts to excel in a line 

1 On going again to the Grosvenor Gallery, I found that I was mistaken in the place of 
this picture. It hung in the East room, close to the large work of Aristides and the 
Shepherd. 

2l8 



which is not sympathetic to. the painter^ — trials of a skilful violin- 
player to perform on the banjo and the bones. The two largest 
works of the second class — that/ namely, which deals with subjects 
of deep imaginative interest, ' and treats them seriously — ma:y be 
dismissed very briefly. The composition of two heroic-size figures, 
entitled Time and Oblivion, is a magnificent piece in line, but con- 
ceived on too gigantic a scale to be worked out perfectly; without 
many years of labour, and it may be doubted whether it would 
ever make a wholly satisfactory picture ; the one entitled Satan, 
a nude, half-length figure, also of gigantic size, with a head turned 
away from the spectator, is open to the same remark, with the 
added objection, that a picture in which there is only half a figure, 
and that half only shows the back of his head, is hardly likely to 
be specially interesting or intelligible, and that such a subject of 
such a size should certainly be both, to justify existence at all. 
Of the large work of Love and Death no such criticism can be 
made ; its facts are stated with wonderful clearness and power ; 
the picture is adequately finished ; and presents a novel and striking 
treatment of a great subject, and is very beautiful in composition 
and colour. 

On the whole, this composition may rank as the finest of our 
artist's imaginative allegories. 

The conception of Love, standing upon the threshold of the House 
of Life, striving ineffectually to bar the advance of Death, is very 
beautiful, and both in drawing and colour, and the movement of his 
figure resisting to the last the power which he feels must prevail, is 
expressed with extraordinary ability. The problem of combining 
the most violent exertion, with grace of attitude, has been solved by 
Mr. Watts in this picture with complete success, and so has the diffi- 
culty of expressing, in the two typical figures, the double action of 
feeble violence, and quiet but resistless strength. All the minor details, 
from the brushed feathers of Love's once bright wings, to the falling 
petals of the roses that surround the porch, are finished with the most 
delicate beauty, and the whole work is instinct with the best form of 
pre-Raphaelitism. 

There is another large composition, of somewhat similar treat- 
ment, entitled Time, Death, and Fate, which may perhaps rank 
with this ; but as this is at present, I believe, undergoing con- 
siderable alterations at Mr. Watts' hand, and, as I have not seen 
it for some years, I cannot speak of it with any detail. A small 
first sketch for this work may be seen in the West Gallery here, 
but is of inferior merit to the finished picture. The largest 
work in this exhibition is one which reaches from floor to ceiling 
of the largest gallery, and is entitled The Angel, of De.ath. 

219 



This composition is in an excessively unfinished state, and I do not, 
therefore, purpose to criticise it minutely. The picture is a symbolical 
one of many figures, representing various types of men and women 
who have come to Death to pray for release, or to sacrifice their lives 
for others, and above them all sits the great compassionate Angel, 
enthroned upon the ruins of the world, and holding in her lap the 
form of a dead child. One of the finest figures is that of a beautiful 
girl, who is wearily resting her head against the winding-sheet that 
flows down from Death's robe ; and the form of the warrior laying 
down his sword upon the altar in the centre of the picture, has much 
simple dignity. Should Mr. Watts be able to finish this work, and 
make it as beautiful in colour, as it is already grand in conception 
and form, it will be one of the noblest pictures in modern art. 
Even now this is a most beautiful and thoughtful illustration of a 
sombre theme. 

The other poetical pictures also deserve careful examination. The 
Sir Galahad is the most perfect, and the Paolo and Francesca the 
most tragic conception of their respective subjects that I remember. 
I do not feel myself the latter picture has the perfection of love endur- 
ing through suffering, that marked the great work on the same subject 
by Ary Scheffer ; but that, despite the imperfections of colour, was 
dramatically and emotionally perfect, and is hardly capable of being 
surpassed. The Sir Galahad is noticeable for the colour, and 
the painting of the armour and the woody background. The 
face, too, of the knight, as he stands bareheaded, gazing before him 
at the vision none else might see, expresses all the purity and 
enthusiasm of the spotless knight, and the whole picture is far more 
cheerful, both in colour and general conception, than is usual in Mr. 
Watts' best work, and bears a considerable likeness to the manner in 
which Sir John Millais would probably have executed a similar subject. 
Less successful in this respect is Una and the Red Cross Knight, a 
composition in low tones of colour, representing the first lines of the 
Faerie Queene, and which appears to have little of the tender gaiety 
of Spenser's verse. Another illustration to Spenser's epic treats of 
Britomart and her Nurse before the Magic Mirror ; and even here, 
though the artist has expressed himself with singular clearness and 
power, we feel the want of the atmosphere that envelops the poem. 
The work is beautiful, but with a certain roughness in its beauty : 
in Loves and gentle Jollities arraid, but with underlying notes of 
terror and disturbance, and a prevailing motive of unrest. I do not 
mean so much that, in this respect, it runs contrary to the sense 
of the original words, but is contrary to the spirit of the 
whole poem, for, as we all know, the Faerie Queene has that 
peculiar power of describing the most disastrous incidents with a 
certain grace and courtesy of manner which cover their real 
significance. 

220 



I cannot attempt to notice in detail any more of the poetical works 
in this gallery, as a few words must be said upon the collection of 
portraits here exhibited. The collection is a very notable one. 

During the last half- century, there has hardly been a very 
great man in any calling who has not furnished Mr. Watts with 
a subject : from Jerome Buonaparte to Mrs. Langtry we have 
them all ; and the only difficulty is to know which to select for 
notice ; for there is always, in the criticism of portraits, this diffi- 
culty, that the faces of those we love, admire, or respect, seem 
to us better pictures (unless they are distinctly failures) than those 
which represent an unknown entity. I think best, therefore, since 
I can but mention a few specimens of this branch of Mr. Watts' 
art, to confine my remarks to the portraits of those men and women 
of whom I have personal knowledge, and of whose likenesses I can 
therefore speak with some degree of certainty. These, fortunately, 
comprise some of the best examples of the artist's portrait-painting, 
amongst them being Mr. Browning, Sir Frederick Leighton, Mr. 
Morris, Mr. W. S. Lecky, Mr. Burne-Jones, Mr. Leslie Stephen, 
and Herr Joachim. 

Of these the last is, in all essential respects, the finest picture, 
though only ranked by the painter as a lamplight study. The 
celebrated musician is represented in the act of drawing the bow 
across his violin, his head a little bent down towards the instrument. 
Perhaps, as a likeness, a little flattering, but only in the sense of 
taking the performer at his very best moment, and, if flattery there 
be, it is more in expression than feature. The wonderful part of 
this picture gives us the key to Mr. Watts' great renown as a 
portrait painter — his capacity, namely, for seizing upon the main 
points of his sitter's character, and impressing them upon his picture. 
Without exaggeration of language, this portrait may be said to 
express music, as truly as it expresses Herr Joachim. Technically, 
the picture is very simply and quietly painted ; there is no Rem- 
brandtesque effect of light and shade, no vivid flesh tints, no elabora- 
tion of detail, but, out of a softly dark background, the face, hand, 
and violin of the musician show with clear yet subdued distinctness. 
The portrait of Mr. Leslie Stephen is in some respects even more 
wonderful, since it was, Mr. Watts informs me, executed at a 
single sitting. The execution is comparatively slight, but rather 
brilliant in its flesh tints, and the painting of the hair and beard is 
especially noticeable for quiet but effective suggestiveness. The 
face is very peculiar — critical yet deprecating, sarcastic and mournful, 
fastidious, thoughtful, and Bohemian : not one who ranks either 
himself or others very high, or expects much from a life that appears 
to him full of errors of taste, weaknesses of intellect, and futilities of 

22 1 



aim. All, at least, of this may be traced in this portrait, which might 
stand in some way as an antithesis of character to the musician's 
picture — full of a discordant music. 

If these two studies are truly penetrative of character in their 
various ways, still more so is the likeness of Mr. Burne-Jones. In 
this Mr. Watts has apparently had no overmastering sentiment to 
express, nor has he altogether taken the face as a type of character ; 
but has confined his efforts to rendering some of the most prominent 
characteristics of his sitter. The face, though unmistakably like, 
has grown more refined in colouring and form beneath his hands, 
and shows less weakness than in life. But out of the misty blue 
eyes there looks that curious expression of inner sight that is 
never seen except in those who dwell in an ideal world. Mr. Burne- 
Jones looks here as Kilmeny looked when she came back at sunset 
to her old cottage home, and 

" As still was her look, and as still was her e'e. 
As the stillness that lay on the emerant lea, 
Or the mist that sleeps on a waveless sea. 
For Kilmeny had been she knew not where. 
And Kilmeny had seen what she could not declare." 

Much as Blake drew the man who built the Pyramids, Mr. Watts 
has here painted the man who drew the Laus Veneris and the Chant 
cF Amour — those strange pictures whose glorious colouring is suffused 
with a tragic splendour, and meanings that we scarcely care to trace — 

" Dreamer of dreams born out of his due time." 

The painter stands before us who can find nothing in modern life 
that is beautiful, or in modern thought that is worthy, and who 
expresses his sense of the discord between the beauty he craves, 
and the ugliness he sees, in terms of sympathy with a mediaeval 
world, with which he would have been far more out of harmony, had 
he lived therein, than in this nineteenth century. Look, again, for 
an instance of penetration into an alien character, at the portrait 
of Sir Frederick Leighton, P.R.A., in his robes of D.C.L. A 
fine face, a figure in an easy attitude and a gorgeous dress, and 
behind, in the distance, an artist's palette and the legs of a bronze 
statue. An accomplished man, and a highly-trained painter — a most 
fitting President of the Royal Academy. It is noticeable that, 
almost alone of Mr. Watts' later and finer portraits, has he given in 
this one prominence to the dress, figure, and surroundings of the 
sitter. Surely, this is an instance of unconscious sympathy, for is it 
not true that in some measure the dress of circumstance, success, 
and accomplishment have overlaid Frederick Leighton's power as 
an artist ? ^ He paints more beautifully than ever ; but if any 

1 The mordant sarcasm of Mr. Whistler comes to mind in this connection — "paints too " ! 
was his addition -to the list of the President's social and intellectual graces. 

222 



genuine lover of art was asked whether he would have the Cimabue 
Procession, or his last year's Academy picture, would there be the 
slightest hesitation in answering in favour of his earliest work ? ^ 
When John Ruskin saw this picture in the Academy, in 1855, he 
wrote a good deal about it, and wound up with the following words : — 

. " It seems to me probable that Mr. Leighton has, greatness in him, 
but there is no absolute proof of it in this picture ; and if he 
does not in succeeding years paint far better, he will soon lose 
his power of painting so well." 

I must not enter into more details of these portraits, nor can 
I spare space to allude, except in general terms, to the female like- 
nesses. These latter are marked by an inequality that does not 
extend to the male pictures, and, in several cases, the painter's defi- 
ciency of sympathy with the purely frivolous views of modern-society 
life has led him into producing work which is almost commonplace. 

It seems strange that the prettiness of a thoughtless girl should 
not be understood by a painter who can fathom so many secrets of 
character, but there is no doubt of the fact. The only cases in which 
Mr. Watts' portraits of ladies have been quite successful, have 
been where he has found some sympathetic quality of thought and 
expression other than that of simple beauty. Thus his pictures 
of Lady Lindisay (of Balcarres), Miss Violet Lindsay, and Mrs. 
Langtry, can only be considered failures. While the portraits of 
Miss Villiers (Countess of Lytton), Miss Dorothy Tennant, and 
Mrs. Percy Wyndham, are all excessively fine. The last-mentioned 
is, indeed, the finest woman's portrait that has been painted of late 
years. It has all the magnificence of action and surrounding of 
Carolus Duran's work, with a power of colour and a simple dignity 
to which the French artist could never attain. 

I must not stay to say more upon the qualities of the landscapes 
in this exhibition. They are almost invariably in low tones of colour, 
and frequently in half light. Their chief motive is the sadness which 
resembles sorrow, only 

" As the mist resembles rain " ; 

but occasionally there comes a bit of pure light colouring, like the 
view of the Carrara Hills, which shows how keen is the artist's 
appreciation of mountain form, and of the shifting lights and 
shadows thereon. To the study of landscape, in fact, Mr. Watts 
brings all the sympathies and methods of his figure-painting, and he 
continues, too, to endow it with the same characteristic dignity. 

1 The Procession in honour of Cimabue's Madonna was the first picture exhibited by Sir 
Frederick at the Royal Academy. 



I cannot sum up this excessively fragmentary and incomplete 
sketch of a modern painter's work and meaning, better than by 
saying in what relation he appears to me to stand to the great artists 
of the past, whose works he has taken as his chief inspiration. It 
is, of course — as he would be the first to acknowledge — a relation- 
ship of imperfection : judged by that standard, who would not fail ? 
But perhaps Mr. Watts' failures are the more apparent to us all, 
because they are made on the same lines as the ancient successes. 
It is practically impossible to compare most modern English artists 
with those great masters of mediaeval Italy, who give the inspiration 
to Mr. Watts' painting. Work which has attempted no more than 
the representation of passing fashions and costumes, or the literal 
reproduction of a modern garden or old-fashioned village, escapes by 
very poverty of aim all great failure, and is comparatively secure 
of favour in the appeal to everyday scenes and actions. But the man 
who tries to endue modern thoughts and sympathies with the 
gorgeousness of Venetian colouring and the subtlety of Florentine 
draughtsmanship, — who bases his appeal to us, not upon what is 
most near to our lives, and most common to our sympathies, but on 
thoughts of which we seldom speak, and graces of action that we 
have never seen, — this painter attempts a task which all of us will be 
only too ready to depreciate, if only because such depreciation will 
excuse us from making the effort to comprehend his meaning. And, 
of course, he must, in a measure, fail. Mr. Watts' comparative 
failure, however, was rendered more certain by his devotion to 
sculpture. Life is not long enough to struggle with the two arts, 
save for, perhaps, one man in a thousand years, and our painter 
has, we believe, always suffered from great drawbacks of health. 
Much of the sadness that surrounds his best work must come, we 
think, from this sense of imperfect achievement ; he has put before 
him two ideals, and has attained neither — ^he is, if truth must be 
told, only a broken statue on the great road of art. 

And yet even his failures are most beautiful, for they are sincere 
work in a great cause, and over the weakest of them there lingers 
something of the glory and the dream. In his own straightforward 
words, he has " a right to feel that my aim has not been without 
elevation ; the greater right to find consolation in so feeling, because 
such effort has certainly not met with general sympathy."' 

In conclusion, I may say of the various divisions of his work as 
follows : — The religious pictures are notable for their undogmatical 
attempt to connect modern thought on that subject with artistic 
expression ; they are probably the simplest form of Christianity ever 
presented. The Greek myths that he has treated, if they do not 

^ Extract from a letter to the writer. 
224 



"smell of Anacreon," are, as Mrs. Browning said of an early Christian 
poet, great in a nobler sense : " the human soul, burning in the 
censer, effaces from our spiritual perceptions the attar of a thousand 
rose-trees whose roots are in Teos." The portraits are unique in 
modern art for their reticence, no less than their power. The artist 
will have his sitter's best part, and will insist upon that. The lines 
of meanness, covetousness, weakness, and sensuality, have no attrac- 
tion for him, and he does not dwell upon them in detail. His 
portraits are, therefore, imperfect, photographically speaking ; they 
are, nevertheless, as studies of character, finer than anything we 
can find since the time of Titian, and they bear to the works of our 
English Reynolds the relationship that Tintoretto does to Titian. 
Less wonderfully painted, less glowing in their colour, less perfect 
in their drawing ; but informed with far greater power of penetrating 
to the essence of the subject, and never surrendering dignity to 
attractiveness of colour or composition. 

Mr. Watts' place in art must be determined by the relative value 
we place upon great imagination and intellectual pow^r, and the per- 
fection of technical skill. If he is to be judged by the latter alone 
his rank must fall beneath that of Tadema and Leighton ; both of 
these men are better painters. But if we consider that the actual 
laying on of the paint is a matter of little importance compared with 
the qualities of colour displayed in the work, the power of the drawing 
and composition, and the meaning of the whole, then we can, in strict 
justice, say that Mr. Watts, despite his imperfections, is the greatest 
of our painters.^ No other artist has given us so many beautiful illus- 
trations of poetry and religion ; no other has touched the old Greek 
myths, and the poems of Italy and England, with so much human 
sympathy ; no other has left such a living record of our greatest men. 
After receiving such gifts at his hands, surely we can find a little 
sympathy for his failures to achieve still greater triumphs, and a little 
gratitude for a long life spent in such single-minded and earnest 
devotion to the service of truth and art. 

1 It must be remembered that this essay was written in 1882, when the majority of 
critics (press critics, I mean) were still in the habit of sneering at Mr. Watts' painting, and 
especially of deriding his imaginative work. To-day my defence of that phase of his art 
may appear unnecessarily timid and hesitating, but in the year in which it was written I was 
alone in the height of my estimate, and I was very proud to receive then a letter from this 
great artist which told me I alone had understood his aim and appreciated his genius. 



2 G 225 




THE AMATEUR. 

HERE is a class of individuals which grows larger 
every day, and for which few people have a good 
word, though it forms the topmost twig of our tree 
of civilisation, the very apex and crown of modern 
life. The amateur — for it is of him and his class 
I speak — is a great fact ; his work, or perhaps we 
should rather say his idleness, is to be seen on every hand. As a 
modern writer said, who conceals much kindly wisdom beneath the 
interest of his stories, " Gentlefolks in general have a very awkward 
rock ahead in life — the rock ahead of their own idleness. Their 
lives being for the most part passed in looking about them for some- 
thing to do, it is curious to see — especially when their tastes are of 
what is called the intellectual sort — how often they drift blindfold into 
some nasty pursuit." 

It is not, however, the "nasty pursuits" which I am about to discuss 
here ; for the person in question is the amateur of painting, whose 
aims and practice might, I think, be made of real service to art, if 
only they could be a little methodised, a little restricted. At the 
present time such method and restriction of aim seems, it is true, very 
far away ; for the line grows daily more difficult to define which 
separates amateur and professional work, and, from the Grosvenor 
Gallery downwards, there are few picture exhibitions in which the 
two may not be seen side by side. Indeed, when we try to think 
the matter out, there is considerable difficulty in framing a satis- 
factory definition of professional and amateur. Clearly the ety- 
mological meaning of the words will not help us. For most 
professionals regard art with greater fondness than those who follow 
it for pleasure alone ; and the professions of the amateur are at least 
as frequent and insistent as those of his trade -following brother. 
Nor does it take us much farther to define the rivals as those who 
work for gain ^nd those whose only aim is amusement ; for this 

226 







w 



definition is unjust to both in almost equal degree : besides which 
there is no reason, in the nature of things, why the working for 
gain should necessarily produce the better result. I am inclined 
to think that the difference really lies rather in degree than quality, 
and that the true amateur is a younger brother of the professional 
rather than a poor relation. There seems to be no reason why the 
one should not be trained as thoroughly as the other up to a certain 
point : the point of course being fixed with regard to the time and 
capacity of each amateur student, whereas for the professional it must 
remain invariably the same. In other words, it should be possible 
to teach to any one sufficiently interested, certain elementary truths 
of artistic sight-perception and technique of the same kind as those 
on which the fuller accomplishment of the artist requires to be 
founded. For the beginning of all right-doing in art is the edu- 
cation of the eye rather than the training of the hand, and to teach the 
latter without or before the former must necessarily result in utter 
failure. And the reason why most amateur work§ of art are so 
nugatory, and even so offensive, is less the imperfection with which 
they have been" executed, than the lack of perception and motive 
which have inspired their execution. The amateur fails in nine 
cases out of ten, not because he cannot do what he sees, but because 
he cannot see what to do : because he has no preference for one 
thing over another, because he has never thought what are the 
essentials of any given scene or subject, because he has never 
even opened his eyes and looked at the objects before him with the 
intent endeavour to see them as they actually appear to his eye, 
independent of the shape and colour which he knows, or thinks that he 
knows, they really possess. Now such deficiencies and hindrances 
as these might be as easily removed from the path and the productions 
of the amateur as from those of the professional, if only he were given 
a little commonsense instruction. 

I only profess in the following paper to mention a few of the 
elementary matters which may help any one beginning to draw or 
paint from Nature, and which would, if attended to, simplify the 
pupil's work more than the kind of instruction so commonly given by 
drawing-masters, and found in books on the art of landscape-painting 
in water-colours, etc., which prescribes the method of laying on 
washes, the right colours to be used for distance and foreground, the 
right manner of expressing by different touches, clouds and trees, 
rocks and water; the conventional choice and arrangement of a 
subject, and all the other recipes by which machine-made teachers 
have endeavoured during the last fifty years to block the pathway 
of the amateur, and shut his eyes to all truth and beauty. I will 
have nothing to do with such Abracadabra as these, or with those 
who imagine that in such a way good work can be produced. 

227 



Nor do I care very much for the approbation or encouragement 
of that other class of amateurs who exaggerate humility to the point 
of mania, and produce elaborate drawings of eggs and jam-pots, and 
little bits of rock and shell and weed, with the excuse that such 
subjects are the only fitting ones for unprofessional students.^ This 
last method tends to an abominable self-sufficiency which is even 
more detestable than sketches made upon the drawing - master's 
pattern. I have known the conventionally -taught student sub- 
sequently discard the corks and bladders, and general life-saving 
apparatus kindly provided for him in early years ; but I have never 
met one who had become thoroughly indoctrinated with the micro- 
scopic study of detail, attain the power of seeing or enjoying Nature, 
or of depicting any natural scene. 

Let us now ask what it is that the instructor should first teach 
his pupils — the very first thing he should say to them when, having 
attained some small power of using the pencil, they sally out with 
the object of making a sketch from Nature. Well, on my theory, 
his first words should be somewhat to this effect : " You are now 
entering upon a new life, in a country of which you know nothing, 
and of which you should have no preconceived ideas. You are to 
put down upon this piece of paper or canvas, in this first instance, 
nothing which is the result of your previous knowledge, thought or 
information : but simply and only what you see before you. Skies 
are not blue nor grass green, nor trees made up of boughs and leaves, 
nor water liquid, nor earth solid ; nor anything on the earth of any 
shape or colour whatever, except in so far as these things may 
appear to you at this present moment. Open your eyes, and put 
down nothing more than they record. Everything which you will 
see will appear in three chief aspects ; it will have some sort of 
shape, some sort of strength of light or shadow, and some sort of 
colour. Fill your paper or your canvas now from one end to the 
other with masses regarded from this threefold point of view. 
Never mind what the masses represent ; and leave out of account 
all minute details of their form and surface : but let every one of 
them be as near as you can make it to the original in colour, light, 
and general shape. Make as it were a mosaic picture in which 
these masses shall lie side by side." 

Now this is not only the first instruction which should be given to 
any one attempting to paint from Nature, but it is also almost the 
last. It includes the whole art of seeing rightly, and when the 
student has attained the power of following this instruction, he 
needs no other teacher than Nature herself. This is the one thing 
needful : to forget all else but the report of the eye, and to set down 
the result of that report with entire fidelity. All work which is not 

228 



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done on this principle is contrary to Nature, and therefore essentially 
deficient. It may be very beautiful as a reproduction, in the same 
way that the miniatures of an ancient missal, or the medallions on 
Bohemian glass are beautiful, but it is work which starts from a 
calculated imperfection, and the end attained is an entirely different 
one. For Nature does not work with sharp boundaries, and does 
insist upon value, as well as colour. Directly we omit from any 
representation any one of the three elements which are universally 
present in every object upon which our eyes have ever looked, our 
work becomes proportionately imperfect and untrue. 

After this general instruction nothing remains to tell the pupil but 
matters of detail, which sooner or later he would find out for 
himself, equally well. Nevertheless a little time may be saved by 
his following some plain precepts such as those stated below. In 
this connection I would entirely disclaim any responsibility for the 
errors and difficulties into which these precepts may lead any 
student. They are such as I believe to be true, and hope may be 
helpful : but the idiosyncrasy of one art-student is so different from 
that of another, and it is so necessary that each, if he is to do any 
good, should find salvation after his own fashion, that all instruction 
in details is almost as likely to be injurious as beneficial. And 
wherever a student finds, after due trial, that the advice of his 
instructor conflicts with his artistic predilections, he will probably 
be more right in listening to the voice within him, than in obeying 
the voice without. Moreover, the beginnings of all true artistic work 
are so unattractive that the verdict of friends and even teachers must 
be received with the greatest caution. The capacity of any human 
being for art, so far as it can be gauged at all at the outset, is to be 
gauged by intensity of desire, rather than facility of hand. The 
drawings of men who have afterwards become great artists have 
more frequently been remarkable for roughness than for beauty, and 
there is no worse sign in a student's painting than the sign of 
prettiness. 

Every one who cares for pictures, or for natural beauty, in the 
sense of wishing to reproduce it, may, if he chooses to give the 
time, and go to work in the right way, attain to a reproduction of 
Nature which shall be a real delight to himself, and even in some 
measure a pleasure to his friends. But this is not to be done by 
paying for any number of lessons, be the master ever so skilful ; but 
only by continual study of natural fact and natural laws, by gradually 
educating, not only the hand, but the brain, the eye, and the heart, 
and bringing all of these to bear upon your work. It is in this latter 
respect, as a rule, that the amateur fails so dismally and so inex- 
cusably : he fails not so much for want of skill as for want of effort. 
The labour required for seeing correcdy, is as definite and real, as 

229 



that for drawing what you do see, and is never given by those whose 
theory of life is to pay other folks to see for them. Art is the result, 
in the first place of seeing rightly, and in the second oi feeling rightly 
about what is seen. Amateur art is good, when it partakes of the 
qualities which are admirable in professional art ; and is bad if 
those merits are entirely absent. Therefore there is no reason why 
the amateur should not see and feel as artistically as the professional, 
if he will seek for the right way of doing so. But the expression of 
his thought and feeling must invariably be inadequate. Indeed, in 
some ways the unprofessional student has even an advantage, for his 
work is rarely thwarted by pecuniary obstacles, and should not be 
modified by considerations of what is popular and likely to sell. 
There is no excuse for his being" dull or mechanical in his painting, 
since the whole world is before him where to choose — since he need 
never choose a subject for which he does not care for reasons of 
popularity or bread. 

Yes, after having been for some years a critic of a large and more 
than averagely skilful amateur drawing club (some of the members 
used to exhibit), and having had a far larger experience of professional 
work, I am convinced that, incredible as it may sound, the amateur 
does really care less for his subject than the average artist. It is 
not the ignorance or the incapacity of the lady or gentleman student 
which tries the instructor, but it is their extraordinary wilful obstinacy, 
the way in which he or she comes dawdling down to the river, the 
moor, the mountain, or the forest, with a heart empty, and a head full 
of other things, and languidly takes out a brush and sucks it, while 
gazing vacantly at the scene selected. Strange as it may seem, it 
has rarely been my experience (on an average not more than once in 
fifty times) to find an unprofessional drawing from Nature, in which 
the faults were not caused chiefly by the laziness or the carelessness 
of the student, rather than by his incapacity. Speaking crudely, one 
may say of those who make sketches, that it is only artists who 
try to do them as well as they can. The amateur, as a rule, with a 
tenth of the professional's capacity, and a hundredth of his precedent 
education, devotes a languid attention for a minute's time, and is then 
surprised at the poorness of the result. The truth is, that as a rule 
with these half-and-half people, effort ceases, when difficulty begins. 
As long as their blotted colour looks pretty upon the paper or the 
canvas; as long as no part of their subject forces their own in- 
competence upon their attention ; so long, in fact, as they can either 
evade, or shut their eyes to all the real obstacles in their picture, 
they will go on swimmingly enough. But let the sun shine a little 
too warmly, or the wind blow a little too rough ; let the ground be 
damp beneath their feet, or the flies buzzing about their head, or a 
little dust or sand spot their paper, and mix up with their colours ; 

230 



let them come to a mass of clouds which wants careful drawing, 
or some boughs which are waving in the wind, or some foreground 
grass whose spears and blossoms cannot be indicated with a hasty 
smudge — and behold, up shuts the colour-box, and down comes the 
white umbrella, and home speeds the faint-hearted practitioner with 
a sketch which he " had no time to finish," How sick every artist 
gets of that phrase ; worse almost than the corresponding one, " It 
only took me half an hour, you know," 

Yet in art, as in other and greater matters, only failure teaches 
us. No one who can go on quite bravely and sincerely making 
mess after mess from Nature, but comes to the time, when, he does 
not quite know how, he makes messes no longer. Somehow from 
the failure, grows up the fruit. I remember Burne-Jones saying 
to me, some years ago, on this subject, apropos of the designing and 
arranging of drapery, that he had tried to do it vainly for nearly two 
years, day after day, till "one morning the sun shone, the earth 
cracked, the flowers bloomed, and he could design drapery for ever." 
This is very much the experience of all genuine art-workers. " I 
can't do figures," used to say the irrational members of my drawing 
club, "and so I won't try"; as if "doing figures" was a God-sent 
gift, that came down from heaven in a basket. This shivering on 
the brink of any little deeper than ordinary water prevents progress. 
Bad swimmers in their depth can always manage to keep up an 
appearance (they leave one toe on the ground), but such never 
learn to swim. Let them flounder about a little and get the deep 
water, down their throat and up their nostrils, and after a certain 
time of spluttering and gasping, and striking out wildly with both 
arms, they will probably learn to take care of themselves. The 
right frame of mind for any ordinary student when he sits down to 
reproduce a bit of Nature, is one not far removed from terror — not 
very different from what our imperfect swimmer might feel if sud- 
denly flung into deep water. Let him nevertheless take heart ; he 
is travelling the road that every artist in the world has travelled 
before him, for there is this grand compensating law, that the 
greater the native genius, the farther removed is the goal of attain- 
ment. The best painter is, as a rule, more dissatisfied with his 
work than the worst. Painting was never easy yet, except to those 
who were incapable} 

With this brief enunciation of some of the preliminary considera- 
tions with respect to amateur and professional work, I proceed to 
give an account of some of the chief difficulties usually experienced, 
some idea of the capabilities and limitations of non-professional work, 
and a very few remarks upon the broad questions of colour, form, 

1 Pardon me, dear friends of the '* Beaux Arts " who have learned the whole art of " la 
peinture " during your brief studenthood ! 

231 



and composition. Before beginning, I must ask to be forgiven for 
the necessarily disjointed appearance of the following sentences. It 
is necessary, because in them I endeavour to condense in as terse a 
form as possible, hints which, if fully expressed in due sequence and 
connection, would cover ten times the space at my disposal. The 
quasi-epigrammatic form of the paragraphs may perhaps be pardoned, 
on the ground that I was either compelled to adopt it or omit half 
my subject-matter. Still I must say again clearly that the following 
hints are really worth nothing in themselves : constitute no Abra- 
cadabra or Fi-fo-fum for the production of sketches. All that they 
aim at is to put before students some plain facts in connection with 
this subject, which they will have to consider and put in their right 
connection. 

Since the first obstacle that one who desires to study any form of 
drawing or painting has to contend with is undoubtedly his relations, 
let us say a few words upon their probable conduct. If they are of 
the rare but pleasant kind who encourage the young beginner none 
the less because he is one of their own kin, they may be left, with a 
blessing on their heads, so long as they do not complicate their 
kindness with advice. But should they do this, the student must, if 
he is desirous of not wasting his time, refuse from the first to listen 
to their precepts. Not because they are relations or friends, but 
because it is necessary for every one who is setting to work in art to 
be a law to himself, or at all events to have but one legitimate and 
adequate master. If you follow the ideas in art of your maiden 
aunt, or your bachelor uncle, either from love of their personality 
or respect for their intelligence, you are wasting time entirely, and 
preparing for yourself difficulties in the future, similar to those which 
you might feel in making a freehand drawing after you had been 
accustomed to use tracing paper. For the first beginning of art, 
whether for amateur or professional, is freedom. You must run 
alone, even if you stagger and fall in the attempt, from your first 
moment. But having got rid of your relatives' advice, let us go a step 
farther and get rid of their approbation. Perhaps this is even more 
fatal than their blame. For in the first place they seldom care, save 
for you personally, and in the second place they seldom know. 
And in the third place, if they both know and care, they will 
probably be silent. For in this last resort, they will be certain that 
the less that is said about a student's work the better. " Continuez, 
jeune homme," is what Carolus Duran says to his pupils when they 
have done an exceptionally good piece of work : permission to labour 
is the only reward which a student should receive. 

Does this seem hard ? Do you require encouragement ? Do you 
want to show results ? That is a fatal error — an error common, alas ! 
to almost every amateur. The whole world of Nature is just begin- 

232 



ning to talk to you ; it is the greatest boon, rightly understood, for your 
little personal world to be silent while you learn the new language. 
And never mind, though it be Christmas- time or New Year's Day, or 
the anniversary of some one's marriage ; don't give away any of your 
pictures at present. Give anything else, but don't part with incomplete 
bits of yourself till they are worth having ; it's best to keep what you 
produce in the workshop. Resist the temptation also to look too much 
on what you have done. Do it with heart and brain to the utmost 
of your power — there's something wrong if you don't feel washed- 
out after each drawing ; but don't look at it all day and night, and 
the next day, take down the shutters afresh, put a new bit of goods 
in the window, and forget all about yesterday's sample. Drawings 
look much better in gilt mounts, or framed neatly, but the drawings 
themselves are no better — leave them as they are, for the present at 
all events. I would not have you refuse to show your work to any 
one who wishes to see it — that's making a mystery of the matter 
which the thing is not worth. But I would have you be sure first, 
that they do wish to see it, and then I would have you show it, 
taking as little as possible of the praise or blame bestowed, and 
desiring neither. If your heart is in your work, you will soon come 
into this frame of mind. Most random praise is an impertinence, 
though that hardly prevents our finding it sweet. Think of how 
foolish it would seem if, when you were learning a foreign language, 
some one who perhaps knew a few words of it, and possibly none at 
all, were to ask you to pronounce the syllables you were acquainted 
with, and compliment you on your acquirement. You are learning 
now the universal language of Art, which great men in all times 
have spent their lives in acquiring — do you want to hear the 
irresponsible compliments of any one, while you are mastering its 
alphabet, or even in the midst of its declensions ? 

A little practical detail you will find of great help from those in 
authority. Get them to allow some place where you can work by 
yourself, where you can keep all the odds and ends of your artistic 
life, free from disturbance or observation. A garret does perfectly 
well if you are in town ; an outhouse or a shed if you are in the 
country. And it probably won't hurt, if you are young, even if it 
is bare and draughty ; or faces east, west, north, or south ; or is 
cold in winter and hot in summer. For one of the first lessons of 
art is endurance, and is rarely to be learnt on velvet cushions ; and 
a habit of conquering small obstacles of surroundings, will be found 
invaluable when the time comes for conquering great obstacles in the 
art itself 

Now as to the preliminary setting out — a word about parapher- 
nalia. The traditional burnt stick and whitewashed wall, which is 
all that some of the great artists have had to begin with, is, though 
2 H 233 



somewhat exaggerated, nevertheless a type of the right way for 
the beginner to set to work. The simpler your means the better ; 
and even if the simplicity involves much limitation, it will be no 
drawback for some time to come. Many of the finest drawings in 
the world have been done with a simple pen and a wash of ink ; 
and even if you haven't a paint-brush, with a pen, a penknife, and 
the end of your forefinger, you can get nearly any effect in light and 
shade that you are likely to want. I confess as a boy, I found the 
pleasure of rubbing ink into an outline with the finger, very great, 
and the triumph when you have attained with these blundering 
means anything near your intention, is delicious in proportion to its 
difficulty. And this, and corresponding limitations of material, not 
only harden your spirit, and make you fruitful of resource, but take 
away one considerable difficulty which beginners are wont to ex- 
perience. They prevent us losing the way in the choice of imple- 
ments and Colours. If there's only a big brush to do the fine and 
broad strokies with, one can hardly help learning to use it both 
broadly and delicately ; if we have only one colour in our paint- 
box, we soon learn how varied is the range of effects which we may 
gain therefromy and how to use it to the greatest advantage. Is 
not all this very elementary ? and yet how few masters there are 
who seek to enforce economy of this kind. Now we will suppose 
that you are adopting water-colour, the medium that most amateurs 
begin with, as your first method, and say a word about paper. Shiny 
writing-paper is bad, because the colour will not lie upon it evenly 
without the use of white, and blotting-paper is bad for obvious 
reasons : and with these exceptions it scarcely matters what paper 
you select. But there is then to be remembered that very rough 
paper, while it increases the effect of your colour, puts considerable 
obstacles in the way of accurate drawing. It is, so to speak, a 
rough road full of stones over which it is difficult to walk circum- 
spectly. As a rule, drawing -masters recommend it, because the 
surface tends to conceal their pupils' defective use of the pencil ; 
because the same amount of finish in painting is not required ; 
because the surface is less easily disturbed by bad brushwork, and 
many similar reasons. All of these should, I think, weigh in the 
opposite scale ; and though the reverse of rough sketching- paper 
— what is ordinarily called "hot-pressed" — is apt to make your 
colouring reveal all its deficiencies, it is of the two more preferable. 
A coarse, or rather a hard, line upon such a surface, shows all its 
error, in the same way as a good line shows all its beauty. But 
the beginner might draw outlines on a rough surface for weeks 
without finding out how bad was his handling of the pencil. As 
a matter of fact, few surfaces are more fitting for a student for 
drawing than ordinary cartridge-paper; it takes the pencil easily, 
it won't bear too much messing about, it does not require either 

234 



the refinement of pencilling upon an excessively smooth surface, 
or admit of the coarseness which passes muster on rough sketching- 
paper. But, to sum up this part of the subject, take what material 
you can get most readily, and afford most easily, and, when you 
have taken it, dorit stint its use. Have plenty of material by you, 
no matter how humble be its kind. Never think when you are using 
paint, canvas, or paper, of how long your paints will last, or how 
many sheets of surface you are using. The worst drawing is worth 
the canvas or paper it's done on. Take a new sheet and start fresh 
when you begin again. And you had better work from the first 
upon an easel, no matter of how rough a kind, if only because so 
doing helps you to acquire steadiness of hand, from the impossibility 
of resting your hand upon the paper or canvas. Besides, with an 
easel you can, either standing or sitting, more easily see the effect 
of what you are doing ; you do not have the continual looking up 
and down from your work to your desk, and vici versd. 

Remember that what you are seeking, in the first instance, 
is simply to express your subject ; that every touch which does 
not aid, necessarily obscures expression. An irrelevant touch in 
a drawing, or one which is put without special intention, is like a 
superfluous or half-understood word in a sentence. And if there be 
many such, the whole work becomes unmeaning. Besides which, 
the materials of painting are always delicate, and will not bear rough 
treatment ; they are like irritable people, and must not be teased 
or worried. If paint is stirred about on the palette, the paper, or 
the canvas, all the freshness of colour is soon lost, the tint ap- 
proaches nearer and nearer to mud. Note also, that the surface on 
which you work is in one sense a colour, and almost the most 
precious of your colours. This will work for you, or against you, 
according as you manage ; if you destroy the purity, you can hardly 
preserve the brilliancy of your painting. The most salient point, 
probably, of old English water-colour painting was the use which 
the artists made of this paper ground for obtaining brilliancy and 
transparency in their work. The whiteness of paper is felt through- 
out their pictures ; pictures in which the truth of atmospheric effect 
has never yet been rivalled in the history of art. 

Clearly understand what this implies, before proceeding farther 
with our subject. Every art, and every branch of art, has special 
qualities, which should be preserved at any cost. These qualities, of 
course, are held in subordination to the principles which govern art 
as a whole, and consist chiefly in making the most of the special ma- 
terial and the special opportunities which that material affords. In 
this way methods, which would be intolerable in some branches of art, 
are not only tolerable but right in others ; and the best way of working 

235 



in any given medium, is the way which preserves most carefully, and 
exemplifies most clearly, that medium's essential qualities. The best 
stained glass is not that which seeks to possess all the gradations of 
colour and subtleties of form and chiaroscuro which we find in 
painting. The best woodwork is not that which is carved in imitation 
of lace or drapery. The best mosaic is not that which we need a 
magnifying-glass to tell from brushwork. The best etching does 
not seek to give the calculated completeness of engraving ; and so on 
throughout the list. 

Now, if we seek the essential difference between water-colour and 
oil-painting, we find that it consists in the foundation of transparency ; 
that all the methods of the former are based upon the manner in 
which one colour is seen through another. No doubt there are 
opaque colours in water-colour, and transparent ones in oil ; but, 
broadly speaking, the reverse is the case. Nor does this express 
the whole of the difference, for in pure water-colour painting not 
only are our colours transparent, but the foundation upon which 
we lay them is a foundation of light, rather than a foundation of 
darkness. It is the fact of the transparency of the paint allowing 
this light ground to shine through the colour, which gives the inimi- 
table delicacy and sunny aspect to good water-colour work. The 
light is, so to speak, made for us before we begin throughout the 
picture just as the light is made in the sky itself, and shines through 
any number of encumbering clouds. The system of purity, there- 
fore, in water-colour is, we may broadly say, the system of Nature ; 
whereas the practice in oils is the reverse. To use the old studio 
formula, in the first we " load our shadows and scumble our lights " ; 
in the second we " load our lights and scumble our shadows." 

Now, there are several dangers into which the young student is 
likely to run, which may be mentioned in connection with this 
definition. The first of these is the danger of not understanding this 
quality of transparency, and of seeking to gain his effect by the juxta- 
position, rather than the combination, of his colours. And the 
second is, that from his limited experience, even if he keeps the 
above facts steadily in view, he will lose the purity of his white paper, 
and so get darkness instead of light behind his transparency. This 
second result is inevitable at first. Patience, care, and practice alone 
are the cure. The third danger may be seen exemplified in most 
young ladies' sketches, and may be called briefly the danger of 
washiness. For colour put on in thin washes with the object of 
being partially transparent, must, if the exact medium be not at- 
tained, either lose or exaggerate its transparency. And as all objects 
upon earth are solid, and all objects in the sky are round, this lack 
of sufficient opacity and rotundity produces a spectral, shadowy 

236 




ALMOND UI.OSSOAL— AijRKii lv\s 



appearance throughout the drawing. The operation, it will be seen, 
is a nice one. There is a Scylla and a Charybdis on either hand. 
On this side we have the danger of losing the essential quality of our 
art— the quality of transmitted light ; on the other, the danger of 
losing all the solidity and reality of natural objects. Speaking 
roughly, we may say that into one or other of these pitfalls an 
amateur is bound to tumble. No instruction upon earth can save him, 
simply because the matter is one of technical skill, only to be gained 
by experience. It is well, however, that he should understand 
that there is no possible comparison in oil - painting, with some 
of the effects which can be produced in water-colour. The infinite 
delicacy and softness — the gradation, and the atmospheric effects 
of the best water-colours, are inimitable in any other medium what- 
soever. 

We come now to the question of whether this method of art is 
more suitable to the student than that of oil-painting. And here I 
am sorry to say I find myself opposed to nearly all art-teachers with 
whose opinions I am acquainted. I admit the superior facility with 
which in water-colours a slight sketch can be made in a few minutes, 
and just tinted with the help of a little box which will go in the 
waistcoat-pocket. I acknowledge that it is at once less cumbrous, 
less, costly, less troublesome, less pretentious, and likely to be more 
pleasing in its results, than any amateur work in oil. But holding as 
I do the opinion that all student-work is important, not so much for 
what is produced, as for the instruction given in seeing Nature and 
understanding the works of artists — I think that, a student's time 
being necessarily limited, and as he can hardly expect to master both 
methods, the best way is to select the one in which the great majority 
of the world's finest pictures have been executed : the one to which 
all the merits of water-colour are in comparison, "as moonlight unto 
sunlight, and as water unto wine." Nor is this all ; for the most 
elementary qualities of good painting can be emphasized in an oil 
sketch, in a manner which is impossible in water-colour. It is 
difficult to explain this shortly, but it results from the fact that it is 
comparatively easy in oils, from the very nature of the medium, to 
put on at once a mass of colour, of the requisite strength and form. 
The colours do not run into one another, but lie side by side, and 
may be joined or altered in shape without great difficulty. The 
effect is obtained, so to speak, at once, and a good oil sketch rarely 
needs strengthening. The medium is more tractable, and will stand 
comparatively rough handling without losing much brilliancy ; and 
there are many other considerations of like kind. No doubt there is 
a great deal to be said on both sides of the question : if the student 
sketches in oil, he should do a considerable amount of minute work 
in pencil or pen-and-ink, in order to keep delicacy of form and 
minuteness of detail well before his eyes. If he does this, however, 

237 



it is scarcely possible but that he will escape some of the most crying 
vices of ordinary unprofessional painting. He is little likely to be 
weakly, washily pretty, the temptations are all the other way. The 
sham picturesque is the last subject which will come readily to him ; 
nor will he find his work encumbered with a mass of irrelevant 
details. The facility with which all sorts of intricate forms can be 
drawn on paper and tinted with a brush, has no analogue upon 
canvas for a beginner, who is almost forced thereby to take broad 
simple subjects. Of course such a student will be to a certain 
extent like a youngster in a riding-school, riding, without stirrups, 
on a rough raw-boned charger, and getting a good deal knocked 
about in the process. There is another thing too — a bad oil sketch is 
such a gruesome thing, and speaks with such a loud, insistent voice, 
that praise is impossible, and so the daub is little likely to be stuck in 
a book, or shown round to admiring friends. 

Again, if you want to draw, you must do a lot of work which won't 
be recognised, except by those who have undergone similar labour, 
and then you will find out how many things there are which go to 
make a picture. Up to a certain point, everything you attempt to 
represent, is paint on paper, or on canvas ; carry it a degree farther, 
and you have a marble column, a woman's dress, or whatever you 
want to paint. The labour that changes the one to the other, never 
shows, and is always there. 

Let us now, before proceeding farther, give a few practical dicta 
to the student, especially with regard to some technical matters which 
he probably would not discover for himself for a long time. 

Remember that in any natural scene, there is a landscape of the 
sky, as well as a landscape of the earth, and that, though the latter 
may be sometimes flat, the former is always round. Round objects 
in a hollow vault cannot be expressed by thin ungradated washes of 
colour : therefore clouds must be gradated and their roundness indi- 
cated. The same rules which apply to the perspective of terrestrial 
objects, apply also to that of aerial ones, and if violated, produce the 
same results. The ordinary amateur invariably forgets this, and 
becomes Japanese in the upper part of his picture. Local colour is 
obscured by distance and altered by sunlight, almost as much as it is 
hidden by shadow. A red coat a mile off is almost grey. Every- 
thing has, broadly speaking, a light side and a dark side, and one 
of the first and most necessary pieces of art education is to learn to 
see this. In nine amateur drawings out of ten, objects are drawn 
rather in plan, than as they appear to the eye. 

Objects appear round to the eye, because of the gradation of light 

238 



upon their surface. This rule applies to everything in Nature, and 
therefore form cannot be indicated without attention to this gradation. 
This applies equally to the slope of a down and the shape of a tea- 
pot. Painting is not tinting a flat surface, but gradating a flat surface 
so that it appears to project or retreat, or of whatever form may 
be required. 

An egg, a man's head," and a tree, are all, broadly speaking, round 
objects, though the first is smooth and white, and the two last- 
mentioned coloured and irregular. There is no more reason why 
you should neglect to have the spherical form of trees, or of a person's 
head clearly expressed in your drawing, than that you should omit 
the roundness of a ball or an egg. Only, as a rule, the amateur 
fastens on the easily-seen features of nose and eyes, or bough and 
leaf, and does not notice or think about the delicate gradation 
which gives the effiect of solidity, and which makes, as the French 
would say, the object in question turn. 

Any object, or any part of Nature, has a definite shape, if it be 
only the shape of a mass of colour, light or shade. Every stroke of 
the drawing which does not set down some definite shape, or some 
portion of a definite shape, must inevitably be entirely wrong. 
Nature is not made up of strokes, or blots, or little scrabbles in 
various directions, like worms wriggling, but of masses. Nor is 
there a border round objects, as a rule. They simply end where 
others begin, such and such a mass relieved by value, as well as 
colour and form, against such another. 

Roughly speaking, if you look at a landscape in the direction of 
the sun, the colour is more or less invisible. If you turn your back 
towards the sun, the reverse is the case. If therefore your picture 
is to depend upon colour, you must look away from the light ; and 
this is in nineteen cases out of twenty the best thing to do. 

The trunk of a tree is not stuck in the ground ; but holds it as the 
fingers hold the glass. In fact, the two are parts of the same 
organism — connections, at all events, by marriage. 

Boughs, no matter how wavy and slight, or how gnarled and 
twisted, are seldom or never disjointed or weak. Each portion of 
them depends on another, and may be traced in dependence and in 
general line of spread, to the parent trunk. 

Leaves are not independent of branches, yet frequently the 
amateur draws the outside form and lays the branches of the tree 
upon it. The shape of a tree, however, is made up of masses of 
leaf and branch, each having a distinct relation to the other, and 
each expressive of growth, character, and spherical nature. 

239 



A leaf has a definite shape, which is to be drawn if you are near ; 
a group of leaves has also a definite shape, which is clearly per- 
ceptible when the individual leaf is not. When you can see 
neither the leaf nor the group because of distance, you may still see 
that the tree forms itself, as a rule, into masses which have relation 
to growth, which indeed express growth, to any understanding eye ; 
and these you have to set down. Trees are not made by splodging 
about with browns and greens and yellows, in little patches without 
definite intention. Nor will any amount of rubbing and scraping give 
you the texture of a rock or other object, if you can't make the 
form clearly perceptible by your gradated light and shade. Elabora- 
tion of work, is not finish. Many minutely stippled -up drawings, 
are, in the true sense of the word, utterly unfinished. For finish is 
not putting more work into a drawing, but more fact. A complicated 
means of expressing any natural fact or pictorial incident, is, other 
things being equal, inferior to a more simple means. Never use 
two lines where one would represent the object equally well. 
There is another side, too, to this question, for all added labour 
upon a drawing or picture tends to obscure the individuality of 
the artist, and to a certain extent to take away from the impulse 
of the work. And so, unless there is a definite gain in completeness 
or beauty produced by the elaboration of the idea, the work loses 
both on the sides of ease and motive. 

Neatness is one of the greatest vices of amateur work. Not that 
it is in itself either a good or a bad thing ; but that it shows the 
worker to have been occupied with irrelevant matters. For neatness 
is essentially one of the leisurely virtues, valuable chiefly in lives 
and occupations of an unimportant kind. When every faculty of 
brain and hand is being brought into play upon a work of art, there 
is no time left to consider dabs of paint upon the coat -sleeve, or 
whether a few drops of varnish are or are not spilt upon the floor. 
For the mind refuses to work at the same moment freely and 
restrictedly, and if you think about the small outside impedimenta of 
your occupation, you take away so much of the power which you 
require for the occupation itself. 

Carelessness on your picture is still less tolerable than neatness, for 
carelessness in painting is incompatible with any genuine attempt to 
paint well. A work of art may sometimes be produced swiftly, but 
never idly or by chance. And though the finest and quickest lines 
and bits of brushwork are frequently the best, they are never so 
swift as not to be done with deliberate purpose, and with the utmost 
strain of the worker's power. 

Complacency is generally found with neatness, and generally 

240 










^.-JK" 






'I 



Ifi^^--^^ 










H 
H 
W 
N 
N 



W 



arising from having mastered, more or less fully, some inferior system 
of drawing. For if one believes that a splodge of green for a field, 
and a splodge of purple for a mountain, and a little blue slopped 
here and there on a piece of white paper for a sky, and other similar 
renderings of Nature, are sufficient for the purposes of art ; then, 
when one has acquired the small amount of skill necessary for put- 
ting such splodges in their right place, there is every reason why 
one should be complacent. With every added sketch done upon 
such a system, the mental and physical eye gets duller, and grows 
to have less power of perceiving the minutiae of form and colour and 
chiaroscuro. And with every added sketch, the hand grows more 
capable of its mechanical practice, and produces with greater ease 
a splodge of the required shape and tint. 

When you are not certain of what to do to a drawing, do nothing. 
Nothing is so fatal a bar to future good work as the habit of splodg- 
ing about indefinitely. And, on the other hand, the habit of putting 
down no touch or line without a clear perception of the end which 
you intend to gain thereby, is the most wholesome habit in the 
world, and one which must inevitably result in progress. Part of 
the pleasure which is given by a good sketch is that whoever sees 
it, perceives the utmost carrying-out of this definite intention, the 
continual selection between twenty or thirty different matters, and 
the clear undisguised presentation of the one chosen. 

We will now suppose that our student has attained a certain pro- 
ficiency in the use of the pencil and the brush, and is desirous of 
beginning to sketch from Nature, and see what are likely to be his 
chief elementary difficulties. We will suppose that he has done up 
his colour-box, his umbrella, his camp-stool, his little folding easel, 
and a couple of canvases, in a neat parcel (a long luggage-strap is 
the best kind of fastening), and is setting out for his day's work. 
What is likely to be the course of events ? In all probability, unless 
his subject has been chosen beforehand, he will wander about for 
two or three hours, till he is so tired, so dusty, and so disheartened, 
that he is good for nothing, and finally will return home without 
having unstrapped his luggage. The number of times that that has 
happened to the present writer is more than he cares to remember. 
The remedy is twofold. Either you must choose your subject be- 
forehand (which is best), and go straight awa:y and begin thereon, or 
you must make up your mind to plump down in the first available 
spot which you come across, and do the best you can. Judging 
from personal experience, I should say that if you are in at all a 
pretty part of the country, the latter proceeding will generally find 
you a sufficiently good subject for student -work. And there is no 
doubt that the habit of drawing from subjects which are not at first 
2 I 241 



sight attractive, is the greatest help in after years in educating the 
eye to see the beauties of ordinary scenes and circumstances. And 
remember that ordinary scenes and circumstances are those from 
which the artist must, as a rule, extract the material for his pictures. 
Think of the great painters of English landscape and their finest 
works, how trivial and commonplace seems their character. Gains- 
borough's "Crossing the Stream," Constable's "Mill," "Valley 
Farm," David Cox's " Hayfield," De Wint's "Cornfield," Turner's 
" Frosty Morning," such are the names of six of the greatest land- 
scapes that English painters have ever produced. Indeed, go a step 
farther, and look at .Old Crome's "Mousehold Heath " in the National 
Gallery, and notice how a magnificent picture can be made out of a 
sweep of moorland and a stormy sky. 

This difficulty of subject, which is taught in no book, and rarely 
touched on by any art-instructor, must be faced from the very first. 
Each of us must learn to discover for himself that which appears- to 
him to be beautiful, and the qualities in a scene which appeal to his 
imagination, or his feeling. Subject is really the diet of painting, 
and must be regulated according to the personal wants of the painter. 
But it is strange to discover how seldom any subject which is inarti- 
ficial does not afford distinct opportunities for artistic purposes. The 
student, I think, should not be in a hurry to devote himself to one 
given class of work ; he will soon learn to know what scenes he cares 
most for ; and, till then, it is no bad way for him to take without 
grumbling, as a subject of study, whatever lies in his way. Perhaps 
a few dogmatic principles may be laid down, though even to these 
there are a great many exceptions. 

All things out of their usual place are generally unfitting for pictures, 
unless their incongruity is useful for some definite purpose. For 
instance, cut flowers, plucked fruit, shells, and in general all objects 
which have an accustomed place in Nature, make bad subjects for 
pictures when divorced from that position. But it by no means follows 
that they therefore make bad portions of subjects ; that a plate of fruit 
may not be most delightful in some genre composition, that flowers 
will not help the beauty of a woman's dress, or perhaps the signifi- 
cance of her gesture, and so on. What the student has to consider 
is whether he has sufficient object to gain in depriving flower or shell 
or fruit of its natural surroundings, and to take care that, if he has 
not, he paints the object as found in Nature. 'Tis but common 
sense after all, for to take anything from its entourage without a 
motive, is evidently to lessen the significance, to decrease the beauty. 
For the least patt of the beauty is that of the thing per se independ- 
ent of all relations. Think how little admirable, as a rule, is the 
ordinary garden shrub in a picture, for a reason which is allied to the 

242 



one of which I have been speaking. It is almost invariably an object 
which has been evidently placed in position, it is rarely allowed to 
grow freely, and surrounded by other shrubs of varying kinds, each 
of which is as evidently and wilfully jammed into holes in the ground 
and forms no unit of natural beauty, but rather one of show and 
artificial life. There is something in these unchanging, irregular 
walls of evergreen which, when we come to think, seems incongruous 
with our English gardens. We know that summer will not make 
them more green, nor winter bare, nor autumn vary the monotony 
of their colouring ; they seem to have no personal life, and to make 
no demand upon our sympathies. Reasons of this sort will be found 
to apply to nearly every subject, and to determine suitability, or the 
reverse. If we push the matter to an extreme, we can see this 
truth at once. No one would think of painting a boat lying upon a 
turnpike road, or a plough lying on the beach instead of in the 
furrow. But few students bestow sufficient thought upon their 
painting, or rather upon the selection of their subjects, to follow out 
a principle into its subtler phases. 

I repeat, that no matter how limited may be an amateur's powers, 
he can always select a subject which has some definite meaning, no 
matter how simple. If the motive is only to tell the colour of the 
grass on a certain slope of hillside, or the movement of clouds on 
a given afternoon, or the circling lines of water in the stream, or 
the straining of a bough in the wind, or the plunge of a ship in 
the waves, it is still quite sufficient. For — and I think this is a 
consideration which does not often occur to amateurs — the minds of 
people who look at and care for pictures soon grow to be eminently 
sympathetic, if only they have the least chance of feeling sympathy. 
The eye seeks, unconsciously to itself, for the slightest hint of the 
painter's intention, and the mind, getting hold of such a trace, follows 
our meaning eagerly, and sympathises with the failure or glories in 
the success, with an almost personal emotion. I don't know that 
there is to be gained from ordinary pictures by inartistic people a 
greater pleasure than that when the beholder says to himself, " Yes, 
I see what the artist was trying to do." And the reverse is as certainly 
the case. The perception of the no-meaning in a picture causes a 
revulsion against it of great intensity. "What on earth have you 
dragged my attention into this gilt frame for," we seem to ask of the 
artist, " if you had nothing to tell me when you got me there ? " 

But if the student must beware of having no subject, he must be 
careful also not to render his drawing too complicated, nor to over- 
burden it with attempted subtleties of meaning. His motive should 
always be a simple one, simple in proportion to the paucity of his 
powers, and, speaking broadly, should refer to some of the ordinary 

243 



facts of life or Nature. For there is no such thing as commonplace 
motives in art, apart from the way in which they are treated. There 
is nothing commonplace in the ordinary human affections, and the 
natural objects of the world, unless they are seen through a vulgar 
mind or eye. "Who ever saw an ugly woman look unattractive 
when she was kissing her child ? " as Wilkie Collins says somewhere. 
There is too the advantage in the commonplace, of a general appeal 
to every one. And if your work \sfine commonplace, you have for 
your audience not the Upper Ten alone, but those of every estate. 

One obstacle which is likely to check the beginner and greatly 
discourage him, must be noted in this connection. And that is, that 
if he attempts, as I urge him to attempt, never to execute a drawing 
without a definite intention to tell some story, no matter how simple 
or how short, he will suffer at first grievously for his inability. He 
will find himself incapable of saying the smallest thing clearly ; he 
will, to use common language, feel like a bigger fool every day. I 
remember speaking to a great artist once about the difficulty of 
learning to draw animals in motion, and his telling me how he had 
learnt to do it. 

" There is only one way," he said ; " you can't attempt to do the 
whole thing at once, you must do it piecemeal. Say you want 
to do a dog running, you must watch till you get one going the way 
you want, and seize what part of his action you see most clearly 
— say the line of his back, or the angle of his hind-leg, or the 
pose of his head, or whatever it is. Stick that down in your 
note-book, and nothing else ; and watch him again till you get 
another morsel of action, and so on day after day till you have 
got all the facts of the matter. Then you can begin to put your 
running dog together." 

Well, something in this way must a beginner think of doing his 
subject, and he must be content if he can get only a very little bit of 
it in this or that rendering ; let him get that little bit as clear as 
possible, and not be disheartened at the incompleteness or failure of 
the whole. 

But the greatest drawback to amateur art is, as a rule, that it 
means nothing. Incomplete, poor, and erroneous as is its technical 
part, the spiritual part is perhaps even on a lower level. And even 
if the technical speech is at all attained, how rarely is it used for any 
intelligible purpose. We are all prone to forget, I think, that there 
is little object in being able to reproduce upon paper any scene 
or action whatever, unless something else is gained beyond the mere 
reproduction. If an image is produced which only repeats a visual 
impression, and that poorly (as must always be the case), without 
enforcing either the significance or the beauty of what has been 

244 



seen, without enforcing a connection with our sympathies, and 
enabling us to see more in the subject than we should have seen our- 
selves, we can hardly call the work one of art. The best result that 
can be obtained by the great majority of amateur students, is not the 
capacity to do drawings of more or less inferior quality themselves, 
but to gain sufficient knowledge of the subject-matter, methods, and 
principles of art, to enjoy the works of great artists, and see their true 
relation to the world at large. Not only does this produce a pleasure 
of far wider scope than the gratification of mere personal vanity, but 
it is one of those productive feelings, which tend by their very 
existence to increase the amount and the power of good art. 

If the enormous body of amateurs in England were to work from 
this standpoint, their influence not only upon all who knew them, but 
upon our painters, would be simply incalculable. We should hear no 
more from the artists those bitter words which are so frequent in the 
present days concerning amateur work ; nor should we have from 
the artists a litter of those cheap pictures which rely for their 
attraction upon flashy renderings of Nature, or cheap tricks of senti- 
ment. I sometimes wonder why no one has noticed that during the 
last thirty years in England, in which there has been such an 
enormous spread of art-education, the essential qualities of English 
art have distinctly declined. Technically, no doubt, at all events in 
oil-painting, the reverse has been the case ; we have learnt far more of 
Continental methods, always in advance of our own — a slightly more 
enlightened system of instruction has been pursued in our art-schools 
— and we have had opportunities of comparing our artistic products 
with those of other nations, and noting their greater deficiencies. 
But the motive of the work has, it appears to me, almost entirely 
* altered. We used to be dull, respectable, and honest ; our sympathies 
were limited, but still they were true as far as they went, and at all events 
we were distinctly national. Add to this, that there was still living, or 
but lately dead, a group of landscape painters who may be said broadly 
to have been the greatest which the modern world has ever known — 
Stanfield, Linnell, Muller, Turner, Cox, and De Wint — who com- 
bined with their truth to Nature a breadth of idea, a simplicity of 
intention, and a sturdy contempt for insincerity or affectation, such as 
could scarcely be surpassed. What has our art-education given us 
in exchange ? What has become of the simplicity and honesty of 
English figure-painting ? Which of our modern men will give us a 
picture like Mulready's " Choosing the Wedding Gown," or the elder 
Leslie's " Uncle Toby and Widow Wadman " ? — pictures which are 
not only works of art, but are fine national works of art, which 
breathe the spirit of the land, and that which made the land great, in 
every line. What have we substituted for these ? Futile classical- 
ities, which the people neither care for nor understand ; and sham 

245 



renderings of a Parisianised society life, such as is alien to the very 
heart of the English nation. 

" One Spaniard lick two Portugee, 
One jolly Englishman lick them all three," 

is no doubt a very boastful saying, and one of very questionable 
taste ; but after all it is the spirit which won Agincourt, and destroyed 
the Armada, and a more wholesome one than this half- shivering 
imitation of Parisian chic, or this puling longing after the outside 
form of an ancient life, which has nothing in common with our own, 
or for the matter of that with the manner in which we represent it. 

How does this bear upon the work of the amateur ? In this way, 
I think, that such a change would have been impossible, had the 
unprofessional students of painting directed their efforts to the com- 
prehension of more than the superficial aspects of art. We must 
remember the artist is a younger son after all, he must do some- 
thing for his living ; and that something must be, in the long-run, 
what is demanded from him. He may keep up a technical standard, 
but it is not his business to keep up an emotional or intellectual one — 
for that, he is only " the glass and abstract chronicle of his time." His 
pictures tell us only what we are, but not what we could be. Nearly 
every household in England at the present day has at least one 
member who in some form or another, in the sweet slang of the 
period, " goes in " for art. What an effect would be produced upon 
the nation as a whole, and the professional painters in particular, if 
all of these amateurs were to understand and endeavour to carry out 
in their own practice, and seek for in the pictures of artists, a few 
simple principles of good art, such as those which are indicated 
above. 



246 




N - 10. ,v , •, 




IN MEMORIAM AMICI : WILKIE COLLINS. 

JHE following study is from the critical point of view 
open to one very grave objection, since it omits all 
discussion of the imperfections of Wilkie Collins' 
work : the cause of this omission should be plainly 
stated. The first portion of the essay was written 
some years ago and appeared under the title of "A 
Living Story-teller" in the Contemporary Review, and had for avowed 
purpose not criticism, but the endeavour to obtain some public 
recognition of Wilkie Collins' long service to the English public, and 
his achievements in the art to which he devoted his life. The second 
portion of my essay was written nearly three years later, on the 
occasion of the novelist's death, and was necessarily, therefore, 
wholly uncritical. In the interval between these writings I had 
come to know the subject of my essays, and had received from him 
much unostentatious kindness and literary help, for which I had no 
shadow of a claim. Under these circumstances, and with these 
remembrances, I feel no disposition to-day to repair the .critical 
deficiency which my essay shows so clearly. Let other hands insert 
the shadows- here, I will deal only with the sunnier aspects of the 
picture. Indeed in any case, it were the basest of ingratitude for the 
present writer to enlarge upon the limitations and imperfections of 
this author, for during my whole life his books have been to me the 
most enjoyable stories in the world, and what I have learned during 
these years of sympathy and help for the weak, intolerance of 
pretence and Philistinism, compassion for the erring, and reverence 
for the good, has been taught me in no small measure by this sensa- 
tion novelist. How far others may be able to gain from these books 
what I have gained of pleasure and profit I do not know, but I feel 
sure of this, that no books more instinct with wide-reaching sympathy 
and charity, and with the essential spirit of Christianity as distin- 
guished from its outward forms, have been writteiT in our day, and 
if they are viewed apart from such considerations simply as stories, 

247 



that there is no novelist living who can rival the author of No Name 
and The Woman in White. 

The endeavour, therefore, of this paper is to show some grounds 
for this belief, and if it may be to lead a somewhat forgetful public 
to a fuller appreciation of the writer than has been as yet bestowed. 

What then are the qualities of Mr. Wilkie Collins which separate 
him from the other novelists of his time, and which constitute his 
special claim upon our admiration .>' The chief of these can fortu- 
nately be stated very shortly and simply : this author has told stories 
better than they have ever been told in the world before, and 
probably better than they will ever be told again. 

Now, in this art of story -telling, Charles Reade, Dickens, and 
Wilkie Collins were all past masters, but they were masters with a 
difference, and, since the art is almost a forgotten one, it is worth 
while to note in what the difference consisted. In some ways it is 
true that Dickens told his stories rather badly : he was always 
wandering away from his point ; he seldom overcame the temptation 
to put in half-a-dozen new characters, whether they were needed or 
not ; he exaggerated his types to such an extent that one continually 
feels personally angry with them and him ; and in all sorts of 
irrelevant places he sticks in superfluous eccentric people and amus- 
ing incidents which it needs our utmost ingenuity and tolerance to 
weave into the substance of his plot. But in another way he tells 
his story equally well, giving to it an overpowering sense of vitality 
and truth, touching it on one side and another till the plot gains 
something of the multiplicity, and the light and shadow of life itself ; 
above all, just when the reader's interest is on the verge of escaping 
him, he compels his attention by sheer force of genius. 

Charles Reade's method is more methodical, and far less elaborate : 
its science consists in a perfectly clearly conceived, dramatic, and 
continuous narrative, the progress of which is never arrested from 
commencement to finish, which is subject to no interruption, and 
burdened with no unnecessary additions. The essential difference 
between his method and that of the other writers whom I have 
mentioned, is that it is entirely a personal one ; he has always his 
characters by the throat, and, so to speak, pinches their windpipes 
hard, and shouts in their ear, "You say so-and-so",; he then takes 
his unfortunate puppet by the throat, and shoves him lustily through 
whatever part he has to play in the drama. Bristling with facts and 
arguments, bubbling over with power and wit, indifferent to rebuffs, 
and impervious to ridicule, this author's personality and his story 
shoulder their way together through each of his books, till, after 
reading two or three of them, we almost doubt of whom we know 

248 



the most, the man who writes, or the men and women whom he 
writes about. 

And now let us turn to the subject of our article, notice the 
peculiarities of his method, and see how entirely it differs from that 
of either Dickens or Reade. 

With that of Dickens, in so far as the method of narrating the story 
is concerned,^ there is evidently little affinity. The narrative is 
not only plain and direct, but unencumbered to an extraordinary 
degree ; we scarcely exaggerate in saying that in several of his books 
there is hardly a phrase, much less a character, which could be 
spared without loss to the story. The plot is only elaborate in the 
sense of being intricately woven, not for its possession of any large 
amount of detail, or for the development necessitating many char- 
acters. On the other hand, the method diverges from that of Reade 
by its absolute impersonality ; the author practically never speaks in 
propria persona, or, if he does so, he speaks as a voice only, leaving 
us quite in the dark as to all personal idiosyncrasy. But the differ- 
ence to be noted lies deeper than that, for in Wilkie Collins' stories 
the result is brought about by a sustained and definite action and 
reaction of character and circumstance, which is only in a very minor 
degree present in either Dickens or Reade. 

It would be fair to say of the latter authors that their characters 
might have acted in many other stories, but of Collins that his stories 
could not have been acted by any other characters. The connection 
with the special plot is, in the first case, superficial ; in the second, 
essential. I am not seeking now, remember, to compare these men 
to the advantage or disadvantage of any one of them ; I am trying 
only to point out differences. What is needed at the present day 
is that we should admire all three a great deal more than we do, not 
that we should admire one at the expense of the others. 

Mr. Wilkie Collins' first essay in novel-writing was an historical 
romance entitled Antonina ; or, the Fall of Rome, and is remark- 
able ^chiefly for the fact that though possessing various merits, such 
as considerable power of descriptive writing, and clear perception of 
character, yet the work affords us no hint of the author's special faculty 
— the power of concentrating the interest of the story, and bringing 
all the actions of his characters into close relation therewith. In my 
opinion, a very dull, and quite unreadable book ; and so the public 
apparently thought, for the work created no stir, and even after the 
author had achieved popularity, was seldom spoken of, much less 
read. 

Well, we need only say that the book was a failure ; whatever Mr. 
Wilkie Collins' gifts might be, evidently he had not as yet found 
their right direction. Accordingly, in the next story there is an 
2 K 249 



entirely jiew departure, and Basil takes us from ancient Rome to 
the very centre of modern London life : the story practically begins 
in an omnibus, and the chief characters are a managing clerk, and a 
linendraper's daughter. 

When I think of the period in which this novel was written and 
published, I confess I find it difficult to understand the tolerance that 
was shown by the Press. The story deals as frankly with a certain 
phase of the affections as if by Daudet himself, and, indeed, I believe 
it was attacked in certain quarters on this score. ^ 

Shortly put, the story recounts how a young man of ancient family 
marries secretly the daughter of a successful linendraper, and submits 
to a restriction, imposed on him by her father, of leaving his wife at 
the church door, in order that, if possible, his father's consent may be 
obtained before the marriage is openly acknowledged. The motives 
of the linendraper in making this somewhat extraordinary arrange- 
ment are explained by a fear of losing his well-born son-in-law on the 
one hand, and the desire to gain time for completing the education 
of his daughter, and for selecting a favourable opportunity for 
winning the consent of his son-in-law's father. In the meantime, the 
managing clerk, who has hitherto assisted in educating the girl, and 
who has always intended to marry her himself, acquires great 
influence over her, and finally seduces her the very night before the 
year's probation expires. Through a series of accidents, Basil 
becomes a witness to his own dishonour, and the remainder of the 
book is taken up with his vengeance on the seducer and its con- 
sequences. 

This, it will be observed, is a tolerably strong story, and can 
hardly be said to be a pleasant one ; nor would it be worth while 
dwelling on the subject were it not that it shows the rise in our 
author of that peculiar faculty, the development of which was after- 
wards to render him unrivalled in his line. A single powerful motive, 
a single sustained purpose, runs throughout the book ; thereto every- 
thing tends, and in connection therewith every incident occurs. 
Characters come and go in entire subordination to the part they have 
to play in the story, and yet they do this naturally. The action of 
the book depends on the influence exercised by character over cir- 
cumstance ; the determining impulse of each event can be traced back 
to a mental idiosyncrasy. This treatment makes the plot organic, and 
from this method Mr. Wilkie Collins has seldom departed. Those 
interested in physiological contrasts, can trace with pleasure through- 
out Basil the manner in which the varying idiosyncrasies and motives 
of the people concerned, combine to produce the catastrophe of the 

1 Ten years after the book was published, Collins wrote in the preface to a new edition, " I 
allowed the prurient misinterpretation of certain perfectly innocent passages in this book to 
assert itself as offensively as it pleased, without troubling myself to protest against an 
expression of opinion which aroused in me no other feeling than a feeling of contempt" 

250 



book— the pride of Basil's father; the over-credulity and timorousness 
of Basil himself; the terrified submission of Mrs. Sherwin, the mother 
of the heroine ; the meanness and selfishness of her husband ; the 
vanity and heartlessness of Margaret herself, are all as much factors 
in the catastrophe, as the deliberate, cold-blooded scheming of the 
villain of the story. Gradually, as one reads the book, a sense of 
inevitable calamity mingles with our interest : the final catastrophe 
comes almost as a relief. Here is the secret of Collins' power as a 
story-teller; other authors may construct a plot with as great in- 
genuity, or tell us a story of as entrancing interest, but no other 
writer has so well succeeded in producing upon his readers the same 
sense of inevitableness and reality; these plots are not ov^y possible, 
they are imperative ; not only might things have happened thus ; 
they could not have happened otherwise. 

Let us consider the means by which the author attained this 
perfection of tale-telling. Before we speak of his method in detail, 
hear what, in Mr, Collins' personal opinion, a work of fiction 
should be. 

" Believing that the Novel and the Play are twin-sisters in the 
family of Fiction ; that the one is a drama narrated, and the 
other is a drama acted ; and that all the strong and deep 
emotions which the Play-writer is privileged to excite, the Novel- 
writer is privileged to excite also, I have not thought it either 
politic or necessary, while adhering to realities, to adhere to every- 
day realities only. In other words, I have not stooped so low 
as to assure myself of the reader's belief in the probability of my 
story, by never once calling on him for the exercise of his faith. 
Those extraordinary accidents and events which happen to few 
men, seemed to me to be as legitimate materials for fiction to 
work with — when there was a good object in using them — as 
the ordinary accidents and events which may, and do, happen to 
us all. By appealing to genuine sources of interest within the 
reader's own experience, I could certainly gain his attention to 
begin with ; but it would be only by appealing to other sources 
(as genuine in their way) beyond his own experience, that I 
could hope to fix his interest and excite his suspense, to occupy 
his deeper feelings, or to stir his nobler thoughts." 

No statement could be more precise, or, with regard to the art of 
fiction, more correct ; this is not only true, but covers, either expressly 
or by implication, the whole ground of legitimate story-telling. To 
have something worth the telling, and to say it in the clearest and 
most vivid manner, and in such a way as to excite the reader's 
suspense, stir his emotion, and excite his nobler aspirations — this 
is to be a story-teller indeed ; and who would not be proud if 

251 



his work satisfied such conditions ? At the risk of wearying my 
readers, I will repeat that on such or similar principles all our great 
novelists have hitherto worked. The chief foundation of the art of 
fiction is the drama, as every one who has heard a Neapolitan or an 
Eastern story-teller will readily admit ; and the reason of this is that 
the most perfect presentment of a human being is not the analysis of 
his motives, but the embodiment of himself ; the presenting him, so 
to speak, on the stage of your book, and letting him act there as he 
would do "on the boards," or as he would in that life of which his 
action "on the boards" is an imitation. In other words, for the 
purpose of story-telling, the dramatic is a more powerful form than 
the literary, than the analytical. Moreover, this form becomes 
more imperative in proportion to the interest of the story which is 
being told ; indeed, at crucial moments even the most analytical of 
fiction-writers are forced into the simpler dramatic method ; when 
they come to the point, their characters act their parts, not narrate 
them. One great difference between Wilkie Collins and other 
writers who more or less appreciate the force of this truth, is that he 
constructs his stories throughout on the above-mentioned principle ; 
his characters reveal alike themselves and the work on which they 
are engaged, by their actions and speech. The author tells us com- 
paratively little about them, and in many minor instances he tells us 
absolutely nothing. Think, for example, of the old servant, Gabriel 
Betteredge, in The Moonstone, who exhibits himself so clearly by 
means of his diary in the first few pages of the book that we know 
him as intimately as our personal friends. 

" Well, there I was in clover, you will say. Placed in a position 
of trust and honour, with a little cottage of my own to live in, 
with my rounds on the estate to occupy me in the morning, and 
my accounts in the afternoon, and my pipe and my Robinson 
Crusoe in the evening — what more could I possibly want to 
make me happy ? Remember what Adam wanted when he was 
alone in the Garden of Eden ; and if you don't blame it in 
Adam, don't blame it in me. 

" The woman I fixed my eye on, was the woman who kept house 
for me at my cottage. Her name was Selina Goby. I agree 
with the late William Cobbett about picking a wife. See that 
she chews her food well, and sets her foot down firmly on the 
ground-when she walks, and you're all right. Selina Goby was 
all right in both these respects, which was one reason for 
marrying her. I had another reason, likewise, entirely of my 
own discovering. Selina, being a single woman, made me pay 
so much a week for her board and services. Selina, being my 
wife, couldn't charge for her board, and would have to give me 
her services for nothing. That was the point of view I looked 

252 



at it from. ^ Economy — with a dash of love. I put it to my 
mistress, as in duty bound, just as I had put it to myself. 
" ' I have been turning Selina Goby over in my mind," I said, ' and 
I think, my lady, it will be cheaper to marry her than to keep 
her.' 

" My lady burst out laughing, and said, she didn't know which to 
be most shocked at — my language or my principles. Some 
joke tickled her, I suppose, of the sort that you can't take unless 
you are a person of quality. Understanding nothing myself but 
that I was free to put it next to Selina, I went and put it 
accordingly. And what did Selina say ? Lord ! how little you 
must know of women, if you ask that. Of course she said, 
Yes. 

" As my time grew nearer, and there got to be talk of my having a 
new coat for the ceremony, my mind began to misgive me. I 
have compared notes with other men as to what they felt while 
they were in my interesting situation ; and they have all acknow- 
ledged that, about a week before it happened, they privately 
wished themselves out of it. I went a trifle further than that 
myself; I actually rose up, as it were, and tried to get out of it. 
Not for nothing ! I was too just a man to expect she would let 
me off for nothing. Compensation to the woman, when the man 
gets out of it, is one of the laws of England. In obedience to 
the laws, and after turning it over carefully in my mind, I 
offered Selina Goby a feather bed and fifty shillings to be off 
the bargain. You will hardly believe it, but it is nevertheless 
true — she was fool enough to refuse. 

"After that it was all over with me, of course. I got the new 
coat as cheap as I could, and I went through all the rest of it as 
cheap as I could. We were not a happy couple, and not a 
miserable couple. We were six of one and half-a-dozen 
of the other. How it was I don't understand, but we always 
seemed to be getting, with the best of motives, in one another's 
way. When I wanted to go upstairs, there was my wife 
coming down ; or when my wife wanted to go up, there was 
I coming down. That is married life, according to my experi- 
ence of it." 
To return to our analysis of Mr. Wilkie Collins' method ; we find, 
on examining the books closely, that the essential strength of the 
various stories consists in their possession of two attributes which at 
first sight seem somewhat conflicting. These are the attributes of 
mystery and simplicity. No books are ever at the same time so 
straightforward and so intricate ; the straightforwardness is in the 
execution, in the march of the narrative, the clear presentment of 
the characters, but the goal is nowhere in sight, nor to the end of 

253 



the book does the reader know whither he is being led. There are 
throughout, however, a feeUng of sustained purpose, a connection of 
action, and a development of character, which impress the reader 
with the conviction of the author's sanity and trustworthiness. 
However intricate the plot may be, however numerous the people, 
we feel more and more certain, with every page we read, that every 
detail and every action, nay, and even every speech, is helping on 
the development of some purpose, which we cannot guess, but dimly 
foreshadow. The conviction that this is so, holds the interest as in 
a vice, and excites an attention to the less obvious parts of the 
story, which is proportionately intensified in the more exciting 
portions. I know no writer, for instance, living or dead, who has 
been able to touch the facts of Nature with so keen a human 
interest, and weld them so firmly to the incidents and emotions of 
his story. Descriptions of Nature in Mr. Wilkie Collins' hands, no 
matter how simply realistic they may appear in every detail, become, 
when viewed as a whole, in entire harmony with, and of consider- 
able importance to, the purpose of his book; and it is strange to 
notice how uniformly successful this author has been in imparting to 
each description the exact sentiment which was dramatically appro- 
priate to the part of the story in which it appears. Here is an 
instance from Armadale — a description of a picnic party to the 
Norfolk Broads, remarkable not only for its delicate truth to 
Nature, but for a suggestiveness and underlying sense of mystery, 
which help to prepare the way for the fulfilment of the first vision in 
Armadale's dream : — 

"An hour's steady driving from the Major's cottage had taken 
young Armadale and his guests beyond the limits of Mid- 
winter's solitary walk, and was now bringing them nearer and 
nearer to one of the strangest and loveliest aspects of Nature, 
which the inland landscape, not of Norfolk only, but of all 
England, can show. Little by little, the face of the country 
began to change as the carriage approached the remote and 
lonely district of the Broads. The wheat-fields and turnip-fields 
became perceptibly fewer, and the fat green grazing grounds on 
either side grew wider and wider in their smooth and sweeping 
range. Heaps of dry rushes and reeds, laid up for the basket- 
maker and the thatch er, began to appear at the roadside. The 
old gabled cottages of the early part of the drive dwindled 
and disappeared, and huts with mud walls rose in their place. 
With the ancient church towers, and the wind and water mills, 
which had hitherto been the only lofty objects seen over the 
low marshy flat, there now rose all round the horizon, gliding 
slow and distant behind fringes of pollard willows, the sails of 
invisible boats moving on invisible waters. All the strange and 
startling anomalies presented by an inland agricultural district, 

254 




I 



V* 



isolated from other districts by its intricate surrounding network 
of pools and streams — holding its communication and carrying 
its produce by water instead of land — began to present them- 
selves in closer and closer succession. Nets appeared on 
cottage palings ; little flat-bottomed boats lay strangely at rest 
among the flowers in cottage gardens ; farmers' men passed to 
and fro, clad in composite costume of the coast and the field, in 
sailors' hats and fishermen's boots, and ploughmen's smocks, — 
and even yet the low-lying labyrinth of waters, embosomed in its 
mystery of solitude, was a hidden labyrinth still. A minute more, 
and the carriages took a sudden turn from the hard high-road 
into a little weedy lane ; the wheels ran noiselessly on the damp 
and spongy ground. A lonely outlying cottage appeared, with 
its litter of nets and boats. A few yards farther on, and the 
last morsel of the firm earth suddenly ended in a tiny creek and 
quay. One turn more, to the end of the quay, and there, 
spreading its great sheet of water, far, and bright, and smooth, 
on the right hand and the left — there, as pure in its spotless 
blue, as still in its heavenly peacefulness, as the summer sky 
above it, was the first of the Norfolk Broads." 

It is worth while looking at that passage carefully for a moment, 
if only to notice the excessive ingenuity with which the author 
passes, without the slightest jerk, from pure description of Nature to 
the continuation of his narrative. You are taken, as it were^ into 
the carriage which passes these various details of house, and field, and 
labourer ; and still, as the horses trot, you are thinking of the Broad, 
and wondering why you cannot see it, till at the very last moment 
the reader arrives with the picnic party, and is ready to share their 
forthcoming experiences. This may seem a small point to dwell 
upon, but it is by the observance of small points such as these that 
Mr, Collins succeeds in impressing us with the reality of his stories. 
No reader can skip a description such as the one we have quoted ; 
it is welded into the story. 

The fact is, our author feels what every great landscape painter 
has always felt, and shown in his pictures, that the interest of 
landscape for most people depends on its relation to ourselves, the 
associations aroused thereby, and the significance which we find 
therein; and, feeling this, he immensely heightens the power of 
his narrative, by connecting the occurrence of certain incidents, 
with places which lend themselves, by their natural characteristics, 
to the emotions which he wishes to excite. In this special 
portion of Armadale he is seeking to prepare the reader's mind 
for the fulfilment of a dream vision, in such a manner as is to 
leave the reader in doubt whether the fulfilment be accidental or no. 

255 



Every line of this description of the Broads echoes back to the 
former description of the dream, and helps to arouse that sense of 
mystery, strangeness, and loneHness, which will prepare the reader's 
mind for " strange matters." 

Let us recur to those characters which, as a rule, are the pivots on 
which the interest of a novel turns — the hero arid heroine, and their 
love relations. Throughout all Collins' finer novels the interest turns 
not on these characters alone, but is almost equally concerned^ with 
every personage mentioned in the book. The hero and heroine in 
Basil, for instance, are treated with neither more nor less respect by the 
author than the rest of the "cast." The so-called hero of The Woman 
in White disappears for some hundreds of pages in the most vital 
portion of the book, without our even noticing his absence. Arma- 
dale and The Moonstone have quite certainly no hero or heroine 
at all ; and though No Name is concerned almost entirely with the 
fortunes of one erring girl, she is never regarded from the heroine 
point of view, and is indeed, considering her earlier life, perhaps the 
most faulty character in the book. The result, to the present writer 
at least, is a delicious sense of freedom — one's interest has not been 
concentrated entirely in the fortunes of two personages, both of 
whom may to special readers be personally uninteresting — and our 
trust in the author's impartiality becomes absolute, when we mark 
the even-handed justice he displays towards his creations.^ 

Hide and Seek, the book which followed Basil in order of 
date, shows a great advance in the development of Mr. Wilkie 
Collins' literary power. Here is at once a more pleasant story, and a 
better work of art ; the interest, instead of being centred in a solitary 
figure, is distributed amongst the characters of the story, and there 
is a far less strained action necessary on their part to bring about the 
final solution. The book, too, has a definite moral purpose, which, 
though never obtruded, is, in the end, satisfactorily achieved. The 
author tries to show that happiness is perfectly possible, with a little 
kindness on one side, and a little resolution and patience on the 
other, to the life of a girl afflicted with even such a terrible calamity 
as that of being deaf and dumb, that such an one need not neces- 
sarily be either herself sorrowful, or burdensome to her companions. 
In fact, in Hide and Seek, instead of representing the person 
afflicted in this manner as an object of pity, the author insists 
throughout, and in the end wins the reader's assent to his assertion, 
that Mary Blyth's was a happy life. 

I have called this the main purpose of the book, but the pur- 

* A younger reader would probably not experience this pleasure, for indeed the old fashion 
of hero and heroine has almost passed away. 

256 



pose, though always traceable, is for the most part kept in the 
background. The plot turns upon an incident (or rather upon the 
consequences of an incident) which has happened before the story 
begins, and, briefly put, shows how a brother who, with infinite 
difficulty, discovers the story of his only sister's desertion and death, 
foregoes his vengeance upon the man who was responsible for both, 
for the sake of his friend, the betrayer's son. 

In the order of Mr. Wilkie Collins' novels this work holds a very 
important place, not only for the increase of power of which I have 
spoken, but because this is the first time that the author's peculiar 
gift of humour distinctly shows itself; neither Antonina nor Basil 
contains, to the best of my recollection, any indication of humorous 
faculty; they are, to use a painter's expression, "a little tight" in 
their workmanship, the youth of the writer showing in a sort of self- 
conscious restraint, which does not allow him to look to the right 
hand or the left, to let himself go for a moment. But in Hide and 
Seek the author is not a bit afraid of his reader; he is not only 
going to tell him a story, he is going to tell it in his own way ; and 
the result is a book which, despite a somewhat stern narrative and 
sorrowful episodes, yet literally brims over with humour, and shows 
the keenest appreciation of the humorous points of the various situa- 
tions. I use this word "humour" advisedly, for "funny," in the 
correct sense of the term, Mr. Wilkie Collins is not, either here or 
in his later novels. There is a mordant quality about his laughter 
which is alien to the spirit of fun ; he laughs like a man to 
whom sorrow is not unknown. In conclusion, I would say that 
the detailed charm of Hide and Seek lies in the minor sketches, 
especially in those of the artist and his bedridden wife, which are 
touched with the most gentle and yet incisive hand, and which show 
us two entirely lovable, and generously imperfect people. In a 
slight way, I know nothing in fiction prettier or more genuinely 
pathetic than the study of the good-hearted, ambitious, but com- 
paratively incompetent artist, who, after his wife's first attack of 
serious illness, gives up his dreams of becoming a great historical 
and mythological painter, and, finding that he can sell for a few 
pounds his studies of still-life, deliberately restricts his art to the 
purpose of producing these insignificant pictures, in order to give his 
ailing wife every luxury and resource which she might have had, had 
he been a man of fortune as well as a man of heart. 

Those who call Mr. Collins a sensational writer, would do well to 
study many passages such as these, which occur throughout his 
works — passages which show that he can not only deal with the 
strongest motives or the greatest eccentricities of human nature, but 
that he can understand, and love to linger long over, these tender 
2 L 257 



everyday affections, "which have one by one, and little by little, 
raised man from being no higher than the brute, to be only a little 
lower than the angels." * 

Here is the account of how the apparently fruitless, unselfish de- 
votion to his art in happier days, recompenses the artist in the time 
of his affliction, when, after the first shock of his grief is over, he is 
able to turn his big canvases to the wall, and set to work again on a 
humbler scale, which is sanctified by a more human interest : — 

" On the first day when, in obedience to her wishes, he sat before 
his picture again — the half-finished picture from which he had 
been separated for so many months — on that first day, when the 
friendly occupation of his life seemed suddenly to have grown 
strange to him ; when his brush wandered idly among the 
colours ; when his tears dropped fast on the palette every time 
he looked down on it; when he tried hard to work as usual, 
though only for half an hour, only on simple background places 
in the composition, and still the brush made false touches, and 
still the tints would not mingle as they should, and still the same 
words, repeated over and over again, would burst from his lips : 
' Oh, poor Lavvie ! oh, poor, dear, dear Lavvie ! ' — even then 
the spirit of that beloved art, which he had always followed so 
humbly and so faithfully, was true to its divine mission, and 
comforted and upheld him at the last bitterest moment when he 
laid down his palette in despair. 

" While he was still hiding his face before the very picture which 
he and his wife had once innocently and secretly glorified to- 
gether, in those happy days of its beginning that were never to 
come again, the sudden thought of consolation shone out in his 
heart, and showed him how he might adorn all his after-life with 
the deathless beauty of a pure and noble purpose. Thenceforth 
his vague dream of fame, and of rich men wrangling with each 
other for the possession of his pictures, took the second place in 
his mind ; and, in their stead, sprang up the new resolution that 
he would win independently, with his own brush, no matter at 
what sacrifice of pride and ambition, the means of surrounding 
his sick wife with all those luxuries and refinements which his 
own little income did not enable him to obtain, and which he 
shrank with instinctive delicacy from accepting as presents 
bestowed by his father's generosity. Here was the consoling 
purpose which robbed affliction of half its bitterness already, 
and bound him and his art together by a bond more sacred than 
any that had united them before. In the very hour when this 

* John Morley. 
258 



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thought came to him, he rose without a pang to turn the great 
historical composition, from which he had once hoped so much, 
with its face to the wall, and set himself to finish an unpre- 
tending little 'study' of a cottage courtyard, which he was 
certain of selling to a picture-dealing friend. The first approach 
to happiness which he had known for a long, long time past, 
was on the evening of that day, when he went upstairs to sit 
with Lavinia, and, keeping secret his purpose of the morning, 
made the sick woman smile, in spite of her sufferings, by asking 
her how she should like to have her room furnished if she were 
the lady of a great lord, instead of being only the wife of 
Valentine Blyth. 

• ••«.. 

" No one but himself ever knew what he had sacrificed in labour- 
ing to gain these things. The heartless people whose portraits 
he had painted, and whose impertinences he had patiently sub- 
mitted to; the mean bargainers who had treated him like a 
tradesman ; the dastardly men of business who had disgraced 
their order by taking advantage of his simplicity — how hardly 
and cruelly such insect natures of this world had often dealt 
with that noble heart! how despicably they had planted their 
small gadfly stings in the high soul which it was never per- 
mitted to them to subdue ! " 

It would be pleasant to say that The Dead Secret, which followed 
Hide and Seek, showed a further development of our author's art 
in the qualities of which I have been speaking. But this book is, on 
the contrary, less humorous, less genuine, and less tender than the 
one which preceded it ; on the other hand, it is certainly more con- 
centrated, and therefore, taken as a whole, more powerful. The 
weakness of the story, as a work of art, consists in the fact that our 
sympathies are never aroused for the protagonist of the story ; 
despite the author's utmost efforts, we are not interested in Sarah 
Leeson. I think the reason for this is twofold. In the first place, 
Sarah Leeson is introduced to us from the very beginning with the 
burden of the secret overshadowing her ; there is no special reason 
why we should care for this woman, who, from our first acquaint- 
ance with her, passes shrinking up and down the staircases, and sits 
trembling in the corridor. And, in the second place, the author in this 
instance has prepared his subject too elaborately ; he makes his 
secret like a pancake, and keeps tossing it about from one pan to the 
other, hiding and seeking it ; missing, getting nearer to, and farther 
from it, till at last the poor thing is scrabbled over with incident and 
description, like an Assyrian palimpsest, and still we do not know 
what it is, and, when we do know, we feel inclined to say : "Oh ! 
is that all ? " as at the end of a pointless story. And yet the book 

259 



is full of ingenuity, and, as in a house built by some misguided 
architect, we are continually opening doors that only reveal dark 
cupboards, and running up and down passages and steps, only to 
find ourselves where we started. The book is especially poor in its 
minor characters; Uncle Joseph, the German upholsterer, for 
example, with the music-box that Mozart gave to his grandfather, 
becomes, despite his virtues, a perfect nuisance to the reader. He 
is that most annoying of all the creations of the novelist, a good 
man with a tiresome eccentricity which we are not allowed to forget 
for a single moment, introduced, of course, as a Deus ex machind, 
and to give relief to the more sombre portions of the story. Uncle 
Joseph never fairly gets into the plot at all ; he, so to speak, dances 
about outside, to the sound of his eternal music -box, and to the 
weariness of the reader. Perhaps one exception should in justice be 
made concerning the minor characters of The Dead Secret, and that 
is in favour of Mr. Phippen, the dyspeptic philosopher, who weighs 
his bread, and measures his tea, and yet, nevertheless, sees bilious 
spots dancing in front of him as he takes his morning constitutional. 
Mr. Phippen is delightful, but, most unfortunately, he only occurs in 
one scene of the story. 

The Dead Secret would have been much improved had the 
author allowed his humorous faculty to have a little freer play. As 
it is, the book has sufficient interest to make you read it, but not 
sufficient to make you regret the revelation of the secret when it 
comes at last. With The Dead Secret ends what I should feel 
inclined to call the early period of Mr. Wilkie Collins' art ; by the 
time the next book (The Woman in White) is published, the writer 
has entirely mastered his business, his "soft-shell" stage is at an 
end, and, as he would say himself, for good or evil the man stands 
revealed before us. 

I do not purpose to say much, or indeed anything, in detail, about 
the plot of The Woman in White, which is too well known to need 
description, nor is the story such as can be easily explained in a 
brief outline ; but of the character-drawing in this book, and its con- 
nection with the plot, I must speak somewhat minutely. This 
is the first book in which Mr. Wilkie Collins succeeds in entirely 
holding the reader's interest by the story alone, taken in con- 
nection with the characters by whom it is carried out. Gradually 
to this point has the author's power grown — to this point of welding 
together circumstance and character, and showing their inter- 
dependences, and the results that arise from their mutual action and 
reaction. Two weak points, and only two weak points, I find in the 
construction. Anne Catherick ^ is of necessity uninteresting, not only 

^ Otherwise, "the Woman in White." 
260 



■1 

on account of her imbecile character, but because by the exigencies of 
the plot she is bound to be sacrificed fruitlessly, and so the author 
is forbidden by every rule of dramatic propriety to really arouse our 
interest in her ; this, therefore, is felt as a deficiency necessitated by 
the plot itself, and as such may be excused, if not pardoned. 

The second point is to me a far more important one : an error 
in the actual art of the novel-writer — an error which would be 
almost unpardonable, did not our inartistic English public practically 
insist on such a mistake being committed in nine books out of 
ten. The point of which I am speaking is the anti- climax of 
Count Fosco's death, and Walter Hartright's trip to Paris. The 
book should end^the book actually does end, as far as all interest 
is concerned — in the scene between Count Fosco and Walter 
Hartright, in which the former confesses his share in the conspiracy ; 
this is not only the finest situation, but the finest scene, in the 
book — a scene which in combination of dialogue, narrative, and 
dramatic power, has probably never been surpassed in fiction ; and 
then, lo and behold! we have some twenty more pages, contain- 
ing a perfectly useless narrative of the erasure of Laura Fairlie's 
name from the tombstone, and the subsequent journey of Hartright 
to Paris, followed by his discovery of Count Fosco's body in the 
Morgue. Let us commit that worst of all impertinences — that of 
teaching a man his own business — and say boldly that the last 
episode should have been Hartright's departure from Count 
Fosco's lodgings, and his catching sight, as he left, of that Italian 
member of the " Brotherhood " (to which the Count belonged) whom 
Hartright had noticed on two previous occasions watching him. So 
the villain would have departed into the darkness whence he came, 
with the shadow of Nemesis stealing after him, and we should have 
been spared that irritating feeling, so common to readers of English 
fiction, that all our stories must be saddled with a definite moral 
ending, wherein every personage is rewarded or punished according 
to his deserts ; must also have all their incidents neatly finished up 
— as if the world ended at the end of the third volume. With these 
blemishes, and perhaps a slight feeling of disappointment with regard 
to the character of Hartright himself, the adverse criticism of T^e 
Woman in White must end. 

This is a book which made an era in novel -writing, and may 
be said to have opened up a new view of the art — a view on 
which a whole subsequent school has been founded ; and yet, 
despite the thousands of so-called sensational novels which the last 
thirty years have seen, the prototype remains easily first, and 
this results from simple conditions, and rests upon the fact that 
the author has been able to combine a very true and noble human 

261 



feeling with his more passionate and tragical interests. The crimes 
of Count Fosco and Sir Percival Glyde would lose half their dramatic 
intensity, were they not contrasted with the unswerving sisterly 
devotion of Marian Halcombe, and the unselfish love of Walter 
Hartright ; and these again would have little power to move us, were 
they not surrounded and, as it were, upheld by a multitude of other 
characters, for the most part indicated by slight touches, who are 
yet living, breathing realities. Walter's mother ; Signor Pesca, the 
teacher of Italian ; Miss Vesey, the old companion ; Mr. Gilmore, 
the lawyer ; Mr, Fairlie, the selfish dilettante ; grim Mrs. Catherick 
herself — all of these are there, and not there only to play their part 
in the story, but to impress us with a sense of the everyday world, 
with its commonplace interests and actions, and so relieve and 
render natural the more salient portions of the story. 

The most interesting character of the story is of course Count 
Fosco, who stands out from the villains of contemporary fiction as an 
almost solitary example or a scoundrel who makes no "damnable 
faces " over his villainy, and whose part in the story is not only to 
bring about the catastrophe. For Fosco in The Woman in White has, 
as he had in life, two almost distinct individualities, one of which 
issues in his overflowing vanity, his resplendent waistcoats, his white 
mice, and his passion for Rossini's music ; while the other sits silently 
by in the shadow, waiting its time to strike the long-planned blow ot 
the conspiracy. Perhaps the strongest part of the interest which 
The Woman in White inspires, is due to the conviction with, which 
the author succeeds in impressing us of Count Fosco's capability for 
better things, of the strange recesses in his character. We keep 
saying to ourselves, "What might not this man have done?" 
The overpowering influence of great strength of character, even 
when the direction of that strength is in the main an evil one, 
has never been shown in a work of fiction at once more subtly 
and more powerfully than here ; every reader feels the fascination 
of this villain, and feels it, too, without losing his horror at 
his cold-bloodedness and crime. By clear, bold, broad touches is 
this effect produced, without a moment's pause in the course of the 
story. 

I can only extract a small portion of the description of the Count 
which appears in Marian Halcombe's diary, but even this will be 
sufficient to show the power and subtlety of the author's analysis, 
and the clearness of outline with which from the first this character 
is presented : — 

" And the magician who has wrought this wonderful transformation 
— the foreign husband who has tamed this once wayward 
Englishwoman till her own relations hardly know her again 
— the Count himself? What of the Count ? 

262 




ORPHANED 

E. IV. JOHNSON. K. W. S. 



"This, in two words. He looks like a man who could tame 
anything. If he had married a tigress instead of a woman, he 
would have tamed the tigress. If he had married me, I should 
have made his cigarettes as his wife does — I should have held 
my tongue when he looked at me, as she holds hers. 

" I am almost afraid to confess it, even to these secret pages. 
The man has interested me, has forced me to like him. In two 
short days he has made his way straight into my favourable 
estimation — and how he has worked the miracle is more than I 
can tell. 

• • • • • ■ 

"It may be his face. He is a most remarkable likeness, on a large 
scale, of the Great Napoleon. His features have Napoleon's 
magnificent regularity ; his expression recalls the grandly calm, 
immovable power of the Great Soldier's face. This striking 
resemblance certainly impressed me, to begin with ; but there is 
something in him besides the resemblance, which has impressed 
me more. I think the influence I am now trying to find is in his 
eyes. They are the most unfathomable grey eyes I ever saw ; 
and they have at times a cold, clear, beautiful, irresistible glitter 
in them, which forces me to look at him, and yet causes me 
sensations, when I do look, which I would rather hot feel. 

• ••••• 

"All the smallest characteristics of this strange man have some- 
thing strikingly original and perplexingly contradictory in them. 
Fat as he is, and old as he is, his movements are astonishingly 
light and easy. He is as noiseless in a room as any of us 
women ; and, more than that, with all his look of unmistakable 
mental firmness and power, he is as nervously sensitive as the 
weakest of us. He starts at every chance noise as inveterately 
as Laura herself. He winced and shuddered yesterday when 
Sir Percival beat one of the spaniels, so that I felt ashamed of 
my own want of tenderness and sensibility, by comparison with 
the Count. 

" The relation of this last incident reminds me of one of his most 
curious peculiarities, which I have not yet mentioned — his extra- 
ordinary fondness for pet animals. 

"Some of these he has left on the Continent, but he has brought 
with him to this house a cockatoo, two canary birds, and a 
whole family of white mice. He attends to all the necessities 
of these strange favourites himself, and he has taught the 
creatures to be surprisingly fond of him and familiar with him. 
The cockatoo, a most vicious and treacherous bird towards any- 
body else, absolutely seems to love him. When he lets it out of 

263 



its cage, it hops on to his knee, and claws its way up his great 
big body, and rubs its top-knot against his sallow double chin in 
the most caressing manner imaginable. He has only to set the 
door of the canaries' cages open, and to call them; and the 
pretty little cleverly -trained creatures perch fearlessly on his 
hand, mount his fat outstretched fingers one by one when he 
tells them to 'go upstairs,' and sing together as if they would 
burst their throats with delight when they get to the top finger. 
His white mice live in a little pagoda of gaily-painted wirework, 
designed and made by himself. They are almost as tame as the 
canaries, and they are perpetually let out, like the canaries. 
They crawl all over him, popping in and out of his waistcoat, 
and sitting in couples, white as snow, on his capacious shoulders. 
He seems to be even fonder of his mice than of his other pets, 
smiles at them, and kisses them, and calls them by all sorts of 
endearing names. If it be possible to suppose an Englishman 
with any taste for such childish interests and amusements as 
these, that Englishman would certainly feel rather ashamed of 
them, and would be anxious to apologise for them, in the 
company of grown-up people. But the Count, apparently, sees 
nothing ridiculous in the amazing contrast between his colossal 
self and his frail little pets. He would blandly kiss his white 
mice, and twitter to his canary birds, amid an assembly of 
English fox-hunters, and would only pity them as barbarians 
when they were all laughing their loudest at him." 

In this description it is that the author's genius for depicting 
character shows its utmost height, for if Count Fosco had not been a 
human villain, the story of The Woman in White would have been 
unbearable : the cowardly, tyrannous selfishness of Sir Percival 
Glyde, the weak submission of his wife, the magnificent devotion to 
her sister of Marian Halcombe, would have had no foil and no relief. 
As it is, the woman and the man, Marian Halcombe and Count 
Fosco, the good and the evil spirits, stand opposite to one another, 
and fight for their respective interests amidst the weaker characters 
whose fortunes they decide, and, as I have said, so subtly is the 
villain conceived, that the balance of sympathy is never altogether on 
the side of his antagonist. Ought it to be ? 

That is the question to which the answer would not have been 
doubtful fifty years ago, and that is the question to which the 
affirmative answer, given by many people, has caused so much 
adverse criticism on Mr. Wilkie Collins' novels. 

The answer which I should give here would be as follows : ^ — 

* A very partial answer, I admit, but space fails me to discuss the subject adequately. 

264 



That directly our sympathies are entirely withdrawn from any char- 
acter whatsoever in a work of fiction, that character has for us 
practically no existence. He is a mere compound of words and 
phrases, and has no more the power to affect as a warning, than to 
encourage as an example. Out of the pages oi Frankenstein there is 
no such thing as an unadulterated monster. Unless we can trace in 
any given character of fiction some possible likeness to ourselves, we 
cannot be either with or against. Take away the little touches 
which make Count Fosco human — his fondness for his wife, his 
bravery, his tenderness to animals, his love of music, his overflowing, 
harmless vanity — and you take away the whole vital quality of the 
man, and leave merely a bundle of attributes, for which no human 
being can afford to care. Another, and perhaps a better, instance of 
our author's perception of this truth is in the sympathy which he 
arouses in us for Captain Wragge (who is an unscrupulous little 
swindler in No Name), in the description of one of his interviews 
with the heroine, Magdalen Vanstone. The girl has been tried past 
her power of endurance, and has, in an outbreak of temper, said hard 
things to the Captain. Her apology touches some kindly feeling in 
the little swindler's heart, and there seems to be an instant glad 
recognition of the fact that he was not wholly base, in the way in 
which this momentary impulse is described by the author. 

Magdalen Vanstone is speaking : 

" ' You are a kinder man than I thought you were,' she said ; ' I 
am sorry I spoke so passionately to you just now. I am very, 
very sorry ! ' The tears stole into her eyes, and she offered 
him her hand with the native grace and gentleness of happier 
days. ' Be friends with me again,' she said pleadingly ; 'I'm 
only a girl. Captain Wragge ; I'm only a girl.' He took her 
hand in silence, patted it for a moment, and then opened the 
door for her to go back into her room again. There was genuine 
regret in his face as he showed her that trifling attention. He 
was a vagabond and a cheat ; he had lived a mean, shuffling, 
degraded life ; but he was human, and she had found her way to 
the lost sympathies in him, which not even the self-degradation 
of a swindler's existence could wholly destroy. ' Damn the 
breakfast,' he said, when the servant came in for her orders ; ' go 
to the inn directly, and say I want a carriage and pair at the 
door in an hour's time.' 'She has rubbed the edge off'my 
appetite,' he said to himself, with a forced laugh ; ' I'll try a cigar 
and a turn in the open air.' " 

Some two years subsequently to The Woman in White^ (our author 
has rarely had less than two years to prepare each of his important 
novels). No Name, from which the above quotation is taken, appeared; 
2 M 265 



— a book which, despite several minor blemishes, is, in my opinion, 
the most fascinating, as Armadale is the most important, of all Mr. 
Wilkie Collins' works. " Here is one more book that depicts the 
struggle of a human creature under those opposing influences of Good 
and Evil which we have all felt, which we have all known." These 
words, which I have extracted from the Preface, form the keynote of 
the book which tells the story of Magdalen Vanstone, her sins, her 
repentance, and her punishment. Space forbids me to say anything 
of the plot or the details of this work, but, in justice to the author, it 
must be pointed out that no better proof could be desired of his 
genuineness as an artist than its mere existence, considering the 
circumstances under which it was written. Think for a moment how 
keen was the temptation to an author, who had at last, after ten years 
of fiction-writing, made a gigantic and indubitable success in a very 
special and original manner, to repeat in his next work the same 
method, and try to catch the public in a similar way. On the con- 
trary, he waits for two years, and then starts on an entirely different 
plan, content to let the author of The Woman in White be forgotten 
while he solicits our favour as the author of No Name. And why ? 
Here is the explanation in his own words : — 

" To pass from the characters to the story, it will be seen that the 
narrative related in these pages has been constructed on a plan 
which differs from the plan followed in my last novel [The 
Woman in White\ and in some other of my books published at 
an earlier date. The only secret contained in this book is 
revealed midway in the first volume. From that point all the 
main events of the story are purposely foreshadowed before they 
take place, my present design being to rouse the reader's interest 
in following the train of circumstances by which these foreseen 
events are brought about. In trying this new ground, I am not 
turning my back in doubt on the ground which I have passed 
over already ; my one object in following a new course is to 
enlarge the range of my studies in the art of writing fiction, and 
to vary the form in which I make my appeal to the reader, as 
attractively as I can." 

Nowadays, I confess that I know no novel-writer who could honestly 
put the above in a Preface. 

From this work of No Name I take the following extract, 
typical of the author's power both in giving the dramatic intensity of 
a situation, and connecting it with our sympathies by little touches 
of _ natural effect and sympathy. Driven to the brink of committing 
suicide by the horror with which her contemplated marriage inspires 
her, Magdalen Vanstone is sitting by her open window in the early 

266 



morning, watching a little fleet of fishing-boats drift past She 
determines to set her life upon the hazard of the number which cross 
the wmdow m a certain time. 

*' If in half an hour an even number passed, the sign given should 
be a sign to live ; if the uneven number prevailed, the end 
should be death. With that final resolution she rested her head 
against the window, and waited for the ships to pass. . . . Two 
minutes to the end of the half-hour, and seven ships ; twenty- 
nine, and nothing followed in the wake of the seventh ship. 
The minute-hand of the watch moved on half-way to thirty, and 
still the white, heaving sea was a misty blank. Without moving 
from the window, she took the poison in one hand, and raised 
her watch in the other. As the quick seconds counted each 
other out, her eyes, quick as they turned from the watch to the 
sea, from the sea to the watch, looked for the last time at the 
sea, and saw the Eighth Ship. She never moved ; she never 
spoke. The death of thought, the death of feeling, seemed to 
have come over her already. She put back the poison mechanic- 
ally on the ledge of the window, and watched, as in a dream, 
the ship gliding smoothly on its silent way, gliding till it melted 
into the shadow, gliding till it was lost in the mist. The strain 
on her mind relaxed when the messenger of life had passed 
from her sight. ' Providence ? ' she whispered faintly to herself, 
' or chance ? ' Her eyes closed and her head fell back. When 
the sense of life returned to her the morning sun was warm on 
her face, the blue heaven looked down on her, and the sea was 
a sea of gold. . . . The maid entered the room, remained there 
a moment or two, and came out again, closing the door gently. 
' She looks beautiful, sir,' said the girl, ' and she's sleeping as 
quietly as a new-born child.' " 

The book which succeeded JVo Name was Armadale, which, 
on the whole, must be considered the greatest of Mr, Wilkie Collins' 
novels. It has all the interest and sustained purpose of The 
Woman in White, while drawn on a much larger scale, and showing 
a much wider knowledge of character. If only for the intricacy of 
the plot, and for the manner in which that plot is worked out over 
the lapse of years, and by means of a large number of diverse 
characters, the work would remain of typical excellence ; but the 
merit is more than this. The romance is a successful attempt to 
deal from the imaginative point of view with the doctrines of heredity, 
both physical and moral. The causes of the story are all in the first 
generation, and all the incidents in the second generation are the 
results of the earlier action. It is a story of the effects produced 
by a woman's weakness and a man's crime — a weakness which is 

267 



reflected, though on the good side instead of the bad, in the succeeding 
generation ; and a crime, of which the strength alone survives in the 
child of its author, inspiring him with a passionate determination to 
shield the life of the son of the man whom his father murdered, at all 
hazards to his own life, and at all costs to his own happiness. This 
is the better nature of the chief actor of the book, but therewith 
exists a more morbid strain of feeling, which prompts him to 
doubt whether, despite all his efforts, he will not bring fatal mis- 
chance to his friend, and the vital portion of the book is the story of 
his mental struggle, of the incidents which determine his action, and 
of the final catastrophe through which the solution is found. 

What I have ventured to call the mental and moral doctrine of 
heredity, is, amongst other causes, worked out by the author making 
the instrument of danger to the son, the same woman, who, as a 
child, was the instrument of his mother's deception. This character, 
who stands to the female villains of fiction in the same relation that 
Count Fosco does to the male, lingers in the memory, despite her 
crimes and her heartlessness, with an almost terrible insistency ; 
and in her final punishment, brought about, with a daring truth 
to reality, by her fulfilment of the one good instinct of her nature, 
we feel almost as much for her as though all her acts had been 
equally blameless with her death for the man she loved. I am here, 
no doubt, treading on delicate ground.; we should have, the moralists 
tell us, no sympathy with a criminal who only suffers for her sins, 
without abjuring them ; but, human nature being so piebald, I confess 
to a sympathy with Mr. Wilkie Collins' disposition to find something 
which is admirable, or at least lovable, in even the black sheep of 
the community. They are so much in the hands of fate, that we may 
well afford to be a little extra kind to them. Such is a hint of the 
story and the motives of Armadale ; but I can give no idea of the 
richness of incident with which these main objects are surrounded, or 
with which they are worked out, or of the wealth of character- 
perception which the book displays, or of the unforced and many-sided 
humour, or of the power of the culminating tragedy. 

In an earlier portion of this paper I have given a quotation from 
Armadale in order to show Mr. Collins' power of interweaving 
natural scenery and human emotion. Here is another little extract 
to substantiate what I have said as to the humour of the book : — 

"The gardener, who still stood where he had stood from the 
first, immovably waiting for his next opportunity, saw it now, 
and gently pushed his personal interests into the first gap of 
silence that had opened within his reach since Allan's appearance 
on the scene, 

268 




LE JOUR DE LA VISITE A L' HOPITAL. — ,1, Geoffrov 



'"I humbly bid you welcome to Thorpe Ambrose, sir,' said 
Abraham Sage ; beginning obstinately with his little introduc- 
tory speech for the second time. ' My name ' 

" Before he could deliver himself of his name, Miss Milroy looked 
accidentally in the horticulturist's pertinacious face, and instantly 
lost her hold on her gravity beyond recall. Allan, never back- 
ward in following a boisterous example of any sort, joined in her 
laughter with right good-will. The wise man of the garden 
showed no surprise and took no offence. He waited for another 
gap of silence, and walked in again gently with his personal 
interests, the moment the two young people stopped to take 
breath. 

" ' I have been employed in the grounds,' proceeded Abraham 
Sage, irrepressibly, ' for more than forty years ' 

" ' You shall be employed in the grounds for forty more if you'll 
only hold your tongue and take yourself off!' cried Allan, as 
soon as he could speak. 



K < 



Thank you kindly, sir,' said the gardener, with the utmost 
politeness, but with no present signs either of holding his tongue 
or of taking himself off. 

"'Well?' said Allan. 

" Abraham Sage carefully cleared his throat, and shifted his rake 
from one hand to the other. He looked down the length of his 
own invaluable implement with a grave interest and attention, 
seeing, apparently, not the long handle of a rake, but the long 
perspective of a vista with a supplementary personal interest 
established at the end of it. 'When more convenient, sir,' 
resumed this immovable man, ' I should wish respectfully to 
speak to you about my son. Perhaps it may be more convenient 
in the course of the day .-' My humble duty, sir, and my best 
thanks. My son is strictly sober. He is accustomed to the 
stables, and he belongs to the Church of England — without 
encumbrances.' Having thus planted his offspring provisionally 
in his master's estimation, Abraham Sage shouldered his invalu- 
able rake, and hobbled slowly out of view." 

I have said that with Armadale the power of Wilkie Collins, in 
my opinion, culminated, but the book which succeeded it was certainly, 
more immediately popular, and, by those who like their fiction of a 
light character, is generally regarded as this author's most amusing 
work. It is certainly one, if it be the least important, of his four 

269 



finest novels ; and, if we consider it purely fi"om the point of view of 
handicraft, I do not know that it does not deserve to be placed first 
of all, if only because of the unhesitating clearness and rapidity of the 
narrative, and the manner in which the reader's attention is never 
allowed to falter for a single instant. It contains also two studies of 
character which are, in their way, unique — that of Gabriel Betteredge,^ 
the old family servant, devoted to his pipe and his Robinson Crusoe, 
and that of Sergeant Cuff, the one detective in fiction whom it is a 
pleasure to remember. The story of the book is well known. It 
deals with the theft of a celebrated diamond, entitled the Moon- 
stone, and its final restitution to the Hindoo idol which represents 
Brahma in his character of the Moon-god. I have given instances 
before in this article of our author's tenderness, his perception and 
delineation of character, his natural sympathy, his humour, and his 
concentration of dramatic effect ; let me here give a single instance 
of his imaginative faculty — the account of how the stone is set once 
more in the forehead of the great idol by the three Brahmins who 
have compassed its recovery : — 

" Looking back down the hill, the view presented the grandest 
spectacle of Nature and Man in combination that I have ever 
seen. The lower slopes of the eminence melted imperceptibly 
into a grassy plain, the place of the meeting of three rivers. 
On one side the graceful winding of the waters stretched away, 
now visible, now hidden by trees, as far as the eye could see. 
On the other, the waveless ocean slept in the calm of the night. 
People this lovely scene with tens of thousands of human 
creatures, all dressed in white, stretching down the sides of the 
hill, overflowing into the plain, and fringing the nearer banks of 
the winding rivers. Light this half of the pilgrims by the wild 
red flames of cressets and torches, streaming up at intervals from 
every part of the innumerable throng. Imagine the moonlight 
of the East pouring in unclouded glory over all — and you will 
form some idea of the view that met me when I looked forth 
from the summit of the hill. 

"A strain of plaintive music, played on stringed instruments and 
flutes, recalled my attention to the hidden shrine. 

" I turned, and saw on the rocky platform the figures of three men. 
In the central figure of the three I recognised the man to whom 
I had spoken in England when the Indians appeared on the 
terrace at Lady Verinder's house. The other two who had been 
his companions on that occasion, were no doubt his companions 
also on this. 

" One of the spectators, near whom I was standing, saw me start. 

1 See quotation on p. 252. 
270 



In a whisper he explained to me the apparition of the three 
figures on the platform of rock. 

" They were Brahmins (he said) who had forfeited their caste in 
the service of the god. The god had commanded that their 
purification should be the purification by pilgrimage. On that 
night the three men were to part. In three separate directions 
they were to set forth as pilgrims to the shrines of India. Never 
more were they to look on each other's faces. Never more 
were they to rest on their wanderings, from the day which 
witnessed their separation, to the day which witnessed their 
death. 

"As those words were whispered to me the plaintive music 
ceased. The three men prostrated themselves on the rock 
before the curtain which hid the shrine. They rose — they 
looked on one another — they embraced. Then they descended 
separately among the people. The people made way for them 
in dead silence. In three different directions I saw the crowd 
part, at one and the same moment. Slowly the grand white 
mass of the people closed together again. The track of the 
doomed men through the ranks of their fellow - mortals was 
obliterated. We saw them no more. 

"A new strain of music, loud and jubilant, rose from the 
hidden shrine. The crowd around me shuddered and pressed 
together. 

" The curtain between the trees was drawn aside, and the shrine 
was disclosed to view. 

" There, raised high on a throne— seated on his typical antelope, 
with his four arms stretching towards the four corners of 
the earth — there, soared above us, dark and awful in the 
mystic light of heaven, the god of the Moon. And there, 
in the forehead of the deity, gleamed the yellow Diamond, 
whose splendour had last shone on me in England from the 
bosom of a woman's dress ! 

" Yes ! after the lapse of eight centuries, the Moonstone looks 
forth once more over the walls of the sacred city in which its 
story first began. How it has found its way back to its wild 
native land, by what accident or by what crime the Indians 
regained possession of their sacred gem, may be in your know- 
ledge, but it is not in mine. You have lost sight of it in 
England, and (if I know anything of this people) you have 

lost sight of it for ever. 

271 



" So the years pass and repeat each other ; so the same events 
revolve in the cycles of time. What will be the next adventures 
of the Moonstone ? Who can tell ? " 

I would fain deal with the remaining works of our author in 
some detail, but this already over -long essay warns me, if I would 
not exhaust my readers' patience, to a conclusion. Perhaps, it is 
as well, for with The Moonstone comes to an end the best work 
of our author. In greater or lesser degree each of the succeeding 
books shows either a decline in the interest of the story, or in the 
relation between the story and some thesis which the author desired 
to enforce, or some problem of moral eccentricity or physical 
deficiency which he sought to solve or analyse. 

The use of the Scotch marriage laws in Man and Wife is 
perhaps permissible, but who has ever read that book without 
regretting the special pleading against athletic sports, and the mis- 
representation into which it betrays the author. 

Poor Miss Finch, despite passages of much tenderness and 
beauty, and many of exquisitely unforced humour, errs in a similar 
manner in the epilepsy incidents ; and The Law and the Lady 
takes us back again to Scotch law, and an unpleasant study of 
human deformity, mental and physical, in one of the principal 
characters. 

The New Magdalen, which appeared between the two last- 
mentioned books, is, it is true, free from any similar unpleasant- 
ness, but the story is very slight, and scarcely to be regarded as 
more than a plea for the possible social and moral regeneration 
of a repentant Magdalen ; and in a lesser degree for a more 
enlightened and Christian view of political economy than is to 
be found in Mill or Ricardo. To these succeeded other works 
of which I will not here speak in detail ; their names and dates 
are given in the bibliography. 

One peculiar characteristic of Wilkie Collins' writing is its great 
popularity with the reading public, not only in England, but in 
many lands ayont the sea. This is hardly to be explained by a 
little easy talk about the skill with which the plots were constructed, 
for a book is not a piece of mosaic, admirable for its ingenuity 
alone, and, to tell the truth frankly, nine-tenths of the reading public 
neither know nor care whether a plot be' constructed well or ill. 
The hypothesis of plot construction simply does not explain the 
facts, and has to be abandoned. Was it possibly the case that the 
writer's popularity and the frequent critical censure sprang from 
the same or an allied cause ? and if so, what was that cause ? Could 

272 



there be found in these novels any single quality inimitable by, or at 
all events usually unpossessed by, other writers, and any defect from 
which the ordinary English novelist is free ? and were both defect 
and quality such as would probably call down the Olympian fire from 
the Critical Heaven? Before attempting to answer this question 
let us think for a moment, what is the necessary possession 
of a story-teller whose books are to become popular in other 
countries than his own, and through the medium of a foreign tongue? 
At first sight we shall be tempted to say that the question of 
subject is ail-important ; that the incidents should be such as are not 
wholly foreign to the experience of the alien nations; that there 
should be a comparative absence of local allusions and topics, such 
as are peculiar to the land of the author; and that the general 
sentiment of the story should not be an exclusively national one. 
As a matter of experience, however, we find that this is not the 
case. If we think, for instance, of the French novels which have 
been and are most popular, we shall be met with the infinite detail of 
Balzac and Zola, the local colour of Victor Hugo, the provincialisms 
of Georges Sand, the intensely Gallic sentiment of Dumas, Feuillet, 
and De Musset, and the phases of Parisian and provincial social life 
which form the staple of the art of Daudet, Sardou, and Ohnet. 

But I think we do find, in all these authors who have stood the test 
of translation sufficiently long to enable us to say that their popularity 
is due to more than accident or whim of fashion, that the local 
colour or detail, the sentiment or the social life, the provincialism or 
urbanism of the story must, if we are to accept it in a foreign tongue, 
be not an end in itself, but simply the vehicle of expressing some 
idea, some truth, which is common or interesting to all nations, and 
that in proportion as this truth, this idea, is valuable, originally 
stated, vitally bound up with the incidents narrated, so will the work 
retain its reader's interest amidst scenes and people, and by the help 
of customs and incidents, of which he may know nothing, and 
care less. 

The secret of so much fine English artistic work remaining incom- 
prehensible to foreigners is, that we have too often neglected to found 
our themes upon a sufficiently far-reaching and unparochial idea. 
Over and over again do we find in English writers and English 
artists this neglect of the essential, in favour of the superficial. The 
realism which stops short at the delineation of the outside of the cup 
and platter, is a realism which is wholly and almost exclusively our 
national possession. There is a deep-seated distrust of idea in 
the English character, which is as evident, in our art as it is in our 
politics; and as we cannot live entirely upon disconnected and 
unsystematised facts, we take to bind them that which is the very 
antithesis of idea, namely convention. 
2 N 273 



No doubt a great deal of trouble is saved by having a substitute for 
thought in the shape of some ready-made doctrine, to which, willy- 
nilly, circumstances must be shaped. And in this, our special intel- 
lectual torpidity, we, consciously or unconsciously, have resented and 
do resent in our painting, as in our fiction (we hardly tolerate it even 
in our poetry), the introduction of novel views of life, passion, and 
action, which have for their sanction thought and truth, rather than 
usage and convention. 

But the novel or unconventional ideas which we Englishmen dis- 
like so much, are found by foreign readers a welcome change ; with 
them they receive the acceptance which we only give to methods we 
have ourselves proved to be sound, and the French, German, or 
Italian reader who once gains a safe foothold in the leading motive 
or idea of an English story, can easily surround it with such details 
of local colour, custom, or incident — no matter how alien to his 
experience — ^as the author may furnish. 

Now, in this connection be pleased to look at the following tables, 
which give, with briefest notes of subject-matter, the titles of Wilkie 
Collins' chief (and some of his minor) works. It will be easily 
seen therefrom, how fully justified I am in claiming for him an under- 
lying purpose, idea, or theory which vitalises the story through which 
it is enforced, which gives to the work that cosmopolitanism, which 
makes it readable alike in London and Paris, New York or Yokohama, 
Sydney or Timbuctoo, or wherever men and women meet, live, love, 
suffer, and enjoy, 

THE PRINCIPAL WORKS OF WILKIE COLLINS 

Biography of William Collins, R, A, . . .1848 

(His father.) 

Antonina; or. The Fall of Rome .... 1850 
An historical novel. A failure (his only one). 

Rambles beyond Railways . . . . .1851 
Notes on a Cornish tour. 

Basil : a Story of Modern Life .... 1852 
A powerful story, with an unpleasant motive. Written as an autobiography 
of the hero. Essentially a tragedy, the oncoming calamity felt in every 
successive page more and more clearly. Note that in this first book there 
is no humorous relief whatever. 

Hide and Seek ....... 1854 

As tender and pathetic a story as Wilkie ColUns ever wrote, and very full 
of humour. Here the motive of the tale is the study of the affliction of 
deafness and dumbness. It is remarkable that the author represents the 
compensations and alleviations of the calamity, more than its sorrows. 
Note also, that the author's protests against conventional religion and 
Pharisaism here make their appearance for the first time. 

274 



After Dark 1856 

A good collection of stories, with a connecting thread of narrative. 

The Dead Secret 1857 

A study of character. Here blindness is treated on the same principle 
as in Hide and Seek, 

The Queen of Hearts 1859 

A collection of stories bound together with a narrative thread after the 
Charles Dickens fashion. Remark, however, that the intense dramatic 
realisa,tion of Collins shows clearly in the vivid life here given to this 
narrative connecting-link, and that all the personages therein are careful 
and, in their way, elaborate character-studies. 

The Woman in White i860 

Kept Thackeray up all night to read ; ran into seven editions in a few 
weeks, and probably excited greater pubUc interest than any novel of even 
that period. 

No Name ^ 1862 

On the whole the finest of Wilkie Collins' works. There is in it no 
study of disease, no secret worth speaking of, and curiously little incident. 
The story hinges entirely on one character, Magdalen Vanstone, and she 
sustains the burden easily. Round her from the very first all the other 
characters are grouped, and it is worth notice that in the opening chapter 
of the story, Wilkie Collins deliberately sets the stage for the entry of 
his heroine, just as might be done in the theatre : first the comedy of the 
servants, next the minor dramatis persona, all leading up to the sudden 
burst of action with which Magdalen in another moment dashes into view 
on the dingy old oaken stairs with the suddenness of a flash of light, and 
clearing the last three steps into the hall at a jump, presents herself breathless 
in the breakfast-room to make the family circle complete. 

My Miscellanies 1863 

Sketches of various kinds. 

Armadale 1866 

A study of heredity, and the first appearance of the supernatural in 
Collins' important novels. The most elaborate of the author's works, 
and in some respects the most powerful. Specially notable for revealing 
more clearly than in earlier books Collins' descriptive power. See, for 
instance, the account here of the Norfolk Broads, with its underlying 
suggestion of mystery and terror ; the description of the German water- 
ing-place, with the townswomen knitting and gossiping while they wait for 
the invalids ; and, perhaps finest of all, the picture of the wrecked ship 
and the Sound at night. 

The Moonstone 1868 

After The Woman in White perhaps the most generally popular of his 
stories — a Chinese puzzle in literature, of which, perhaps, no reader has 
ever yet guessed the secret. Principally delightfiil, however, for two 
characters — the old house-steward, Gabriel Betteredge, and the rose- 
growing Detective, Sergeant Cuff. Note that here again Collins returns 
to his medical and scientific experiences, and makes the irregular action 
of a narcotic the pivot of the whole book. 

* See also the Preface to No Name, quoted on page 266. 
275 



Man and Wife 1870 

The much-attacked attack upon the brutalising effect of athletic sports, 
or rather of the undue enthusiasm aroused by, and attention given to, 
athletic sports in England. Here in great measure the author not only lived 
to see the first criticism on his work reversed, but even to see the public 
growing to be of his mind with regard to this subject Athletic sports 
as a means of arousing natural enthusiasm have had their day; they 
are now rightly regarded as good things in their place and in moderation. 
That here Wilkie Collins overstated his case there is no doubt. But 
how far it was necessary at that time to so overstate it in order to gain 
a hearing, is difiicult to say. This book has also a second aim, the exhi- 
bition of the injustice which may be caused by the present condition of 
the Scotch Marriage Laws. 

Poor Miss Finch -1872 

A corresponding study of blindness (in a woman) to that of dumbness in 
Hide and Seek. Note also the epilepsy and its cure, and their intimate 
relation to the plot. 

The New Magdalen 1873 

A plea for the regeneration of a fallen woman, and for a more Christian 
view of political economy in so far as it is concerned with the labour 
question. 

The Law and the Lady 1875 

Chiefly directed against the Scotch verdict of Not proven, as Man and 
Wife was against the Scotch marriage laws. 

Two Destinies ....... 1876 

A mystic tale, founded on the old notion of two souls destined from their 
birth for one another. 

The Haunted Hotel 1878 

A weird but not wholly successful Venetian ghost story. 

The Fallen Leaves ...... 1879 

A further advance in the direction of Socialism, and another and more 
daring treatment of the Social Evil question. Perhaps the most daring 
book from the Philistine point of view which has ever been published in 
England. 

'A Rogue's Life from his Birth to his Marriage 

The Black Robe . 

Heart and Science 



I say No 

The Guilty River . 

(A shilling dreadful.) 

The Evil Genius . 

Little Novels 

The Legacy of Cain 

Of these later novels, fine in detail as several of them are, I would, here 
and now, be silent. Any adequate criticism of them, even in the shape of 
a note, would have to take account of the author's failing power, and this 
is not the place or the time at which that can fitly be done. 

276 



1879 
1881 
1883 
1884 
1886 

1886 

1887 

1887-8 




THERE^S NONE SO DEAF AS THOSE THAT WON'T HEAR 



E. BLAIR LEIGIITON 



Blind Love. 

ti course of publication, the last chapters being finished, according to 
Wilkie Collins' scenario, by Mr. Walter Besant, this arrangement having 
been made some little time before the author's death. 

MINOR WORKS OF WILKIE COLLINS 

The following are some of the chief short stories, plays, and 
sketches published separately, chiefly in Household Words and All 
the Year Round'. — 

The Dream Woman — published in Household Words. (Subse- 
quently rewritten and enlarged for reading in America.) 

Mr. Wray's Cash-box. 

The Yellow Mask. 

A Terribly Strange Bed. 

Please Employ Major Namby. 

The Cruise of the Tomtit. 

John Jago's Ghost. (Published first, I think, in America.) 

Miss or Mrs. ? (Holiday Number of Graphic or Illustrated (?).) 

Plays — ^^ The Woman in White. (Olympic Theatre. Successful, keeps the 
stage.) 

^The New Magdalen. (Olympic Theatre. Has been several times 
revived ; very successful.) 

^ Man and Wife, (Prince of Wales' Theatre. Successful, but not a 
good play, saved by Coghlan's magnificent acting; Bancroft also was 
very good.) 

The Moonstone 1887 

Miss Gwilt. (Version of Armadale, adapted chiefly by M. Regnier. 
Globe Theatre. Unsuccessful.) 

Rank and Riches. (Adelphi Theatre. A failure.) . . 1883 

The Lighthouse and The Frozen Deep . . 1856-7 

Both written for amateur performance, but played in semi-public, first at 
Tavistock House, and afterwards at the Gallery of Illustration, and both 
received with great enthusiasm, partly, no doubt, owing to the acting of 
Charles Dickens ; but both are good forcible pieces, with plenty of strong 
situations. The Lighthouse was afterwards played at the Olympic. The 
Frozen Deep was,played by special command before the Queen.* 

1 Continental (translated) and American versions of these plays were subsequently pro- 
duced successfully. 

^ No Name was, I believe, dramatised by the author, but never put upon the stage. I 
think I remember his telling me that it would not " come right." 

277 



We are now in a position, I think, to answer the question why it 
is that Wilkie Collins' books are at once so popular with foreign 
readers, and so frequently sniffed at by literary critics. The reason 
being that nearly every one of them, and every one of the finest, is, 
as will be seen from the foregoing list, inspired by a single and 
important motive, is governed by one dominant idea, which is to 
the action of the characters, and the scenes of the story, as is the 
principle of life in the human body, to the muscular and nerve action. 

With this, these notes, in which I have endeavoured to show 
something of the nature, and give some idea of the extent, of Wilkie 
Collins' genius, may fitly come to a close. My endeavour has been 
less to criticise the writer's style than to reveal the breadth and power 
of his genius, by the most indisputable of all methods, the method of 
quotation, I have endeavoured to advance nothing which I was not 
prepared to prove, and which, so far as my space has allowed me, I 
have not afforded the reader the opportunity to verify ; and I have 
carefully forborne to contrast Wilkie Collins' work with that of 
special living writers, who are at the present moment in greater 
popular favour. No one will feel mofe keenly than myself the 
inadequacy of this paper from a literary point of view ; but I shall 
be content if it help ever so little in the appreciation of this author, 
who has probably given more keen and harmless pleasure to the last 
and present generation than any living writer, and yet for whom I 
seldom hear a generous word spoken, or read a criticism which 
recognises the service he has done, the genius he has shown, and the 
noble purpose which always directed his work. 

Let me now, leaving for the moment the question of the merit of 
Wilkie Collins' writing, say here one word as to those personal quali- 
ties which have endeared him to his friends. Those friends know, 
beyond the reach of controversy, that he was one of England's greatest 
novelists, and also that in an age of self-advertisement, jealousy, 
and pretence, Collins was a type — not without faults, but still a 
type — of a genuine, kind-hearted, helpful-to-others man. He had 
blood, as well as brains, generosity, as well as intelligence, artistic 
pride and purpose in his work, as well as popular success. Well, as 
he could do his work, that work was done ; truly and rightly as 
he could think, he wrote ; and in the pride of his craftsmanship, 
and the security of a few faithful friends he lived his life, seeking 
for no reward of public appreciation or honour that did not come to 
him legitimately, and incidentally from the performance of his art. 
Perhaps, as I have said elsewhere, it is a little thing to have written 
stories so well that the whole world has listened to them gladly for 
forty years, and listens to them still. Let us grant to the Daily 
Telegraph and the Saturday Review, and the Zolaists and the ballade- 

278 



mongers, that this was a little thing ; but very certainly it was much 
to remain unspoiled through fame and censure, through popularity 
and neglect, through youth and age, through the long years when 
famous friend after friend passed away, and left him lingering here, 
still faithfully toiling in the service of his art, and still to keep that 
fresh,^ unspotted, kindly heart, with which he had won his way to 
equality of friendship and honour with those great dead writers from 
whom the critics would to-day disassociate him. 

Men and women writo to me in a confidence which I must 
respect, and tell me the same story of how unselfishly this man 
helped them when they were young and struggling. I, whom the 
journalistic world is always calling cynical and contemptuous, know 
how, with no slightest call upon him, towards the end of his life, 
jaded, suffering, and with but insufficient strength for his daily 
work, he helped me freely, unaffectedly, and continually ; and when 
I read, as I have read lately in paper after paper, from writers who are 
unworthy in a literary, much less in a personal sense, to unlace the 
latchet of his shoe, that this was a man whom the nation should not 
honour, I wonder, indeed, where honour should be bestowed by a 
nation upon an artist, if not here — where world-wide fame, unsparing 
artistic effort and achievement from youth to age, unite with a 
private life which respected alike the sanctities of friendship, the 
claims of literary brotherhood, the duties of mercy, charity, and 
truth, the obligation to speak in censure of every worldly convention 
that made for unrighteousness, affectation, or injustice. Whether 
it be wise in men to do such deeds I do not know ; at least it is wise 
in States to honour them. So, or in some such fashion, spoke Sir 
William Temple, and his words apply well here. A sensation 
novelist only! Yes, if you will have it so ; but a novelist whose 
sensations never exalted an unworthy cause, whose tongue never 
faltered in obedience to public whim, and whose words pleaded the 
cause of suffering humanity, of the animal creation, of all things and 
people against whom the self-righteous, the unthinking, and the cruel 
are wont to be banded together. 

From one point of view it matters not a whit — whether England 
says, in raising some remembrance to him. This is one of those 
sons of whom I am proud — but to England it matters much. She 
can receive honour from him, from her dead writer, in bestowing, 
even now, that recognition which in another land would have been 
given in life, or she can stand on one side and ignore the claim, and 
refuse for the last time the tardy recompense. At least this man's 
monument is secure, even though it be not builded at St. Paul's or 
Westminster, for it stands firm in the hearts of his friends, in each 
unselfish humanitarian impulse which inspired his pen, and in the 

279 



pleasure he has given to millions for wellnigh half a century. That 
it should have been left to me, the youngest of his disciples, to plead, 
and possibly plead in vain, his claims upon our national regard, is 
surprising and pitiable enough ; but so it is, and I trust that the older 
and more famous men, whose words would have carried more weight, 
will have patience with the inadequacy of mine, for at least the plea 
is genuine. For thirty years I have honoured and enjoyed his work, 
for a few too brief years I have known and loved the man, and if I 
have succeeded in even making one Englishman feel more gratefully 
towards the last of our great novelists, I shall be able to bear without 
repining the many sneers and insults which have been levelled at me 
during the past few days for seeking to give him this last poor honour 
of remembrance.^ 

1 This was written at the end of 1889. In the next few months I did what I could to get 
erected some worthy memorial of Wilkie Collins. My success was very partial : the press 
held aloof, or were adverse ; the authorities of Westminster and St. Paul's alike refused to 
allow any monument to be erected in their precincts ; the general reading public were in- 
different. A few of Collins' friends and some brother artists in literature, painting, and the 
drama, only subscribed. I undertook to form a small Wilkie Collins Memorial Library of 
works of fiction to be presented to the People's Palace. This is being done, and will, I 
trust, be completed before these lines come before the public. The long delay has not been 
entirely due to my own fault, but I feel that I owe for it an apology to both the People's 
Palace and the subscribers to the Memorial. 



280 



1^3^13" 








SOME THOUGHTS ON THE 
TENDENCIES OF FRENCH ART IN 1883. 

HERE is not only a difference of degree, there is 
a distinction in kind, between the annual exhibitions 
of pictures in France and England, known as the 
Salon and the Royal Academy. The former is not 
only a national, but an international show ; the latter, 
though adniitting specimens of foreign work, is 
practically a collection of English paintings, and is chiefly the expres- 
sion of the prejudices and sympathies of our own people. Paris is 
still the great art-school of the world, and the pupils who study under 
Parisian artists are drawn from every country to that great centre. 
Here they learn theit* business and imbibe their art principles ; and to 
the great annual exhibitions they send their works long after their 
student days have passed away, secure of space for their pictures, and 
confident of the liberal consideration of what is after all the greatest 
artistic community in the world — the community of French artists. 

The immense space at the disposal of the jury, no less than the 
principle of universal suffrage by which that jury is chosen, affords to 
every comer the chance of favourable consideration, and indeed the 
defect that is most frequently urged against the Salon, especially by 
Englishmen, is that it includes, not excludes, too many pictures. There 
is something almost maddening in the apparently unending range of 
the galleries, as well as in the gigantic size and interminable number 
of the pictures which they contain, in view of the attempt to grasp 
within the compass of an ordinary visit — or even of many ordinary 
visits — the merit and meaning of so many works of art. Many folks, 
I fancy, leave the exhibition, wishing for the moment that there was 
no such thing as a picture or a statue in the world — satiated not so 
much with beauty as with the gigantic diverse endeavour of this 
heterogeneous army of artists. 

2 o 281 



From the dance of Herodias' daughter, to the interior of a Parisian 
hospital ; from vast historical compositions, to the interiors of butchers' 
shops ; from shipwrecks at sea, to half-dressed ballet-girls ; from Rameses 
II. to the last hero of Parisian journalism, the unfortunate spectator's 
mind and eyes are dragged, in his progress down the Salon, some 2500 
times. Is it any wonder that long before he has seen a tithe of the 
exhibition his artistic palate is jaded and repelled ? Michelangelo, 
Titian, and Velasquez might appeal to him in vain long before he has 
come to M. Zwiller, whose picture, Un Philosophe (No. 2521), closes 
the list of paintings. And this, I fancy, is why so few English people 
are at all just in their estimate of the Salon, and why, also, we so 
frequently hear it spoken of with a passionate dislike, almost personal 
in its intensity. We English folks are accustomed to swallow a gallery 
at a gulp, as we swallow our medicine, and to swallow this French 
exhibition whole is an impossibility. The pictures cannot be looked 
at under an appreciable amount of time, and it is even more difficult 
to pass without looking. 

A collection of paintings where a work such as Mr. S. J. Solomon's 
Samson and Delilah, the largest picture of this year's Academy, would 
appear of but ordinary size, is apt to be very glaring in its imperfec- 
tions ; and it must, at best, demand an amount of consideration and 
attention such as few people, who are not extremely interested in 
pictures, are ready to bestow. And these imperfections will be the 
more repellent, and this mental fatigue the more intense, in propor- 
tion as the painters of such pictures are less conventional, and are 
occupied in fresh artistic departures. We bear much with the men 
who are making history ; can we not bear a little with the men who 
are making painting ? We do not expect the perfect adaptation of 
means to end from the former ; why should we from the latter ? From 
those who are repeating dead formulae, contented to follow the tracks 
of the men who have gone before them, much should indeed be ex- 
pected, and for their errors little forbearance should be shown ; but to 
those who are seeking some new development in the sphere of beauty, 
some new means by which to express Nature, and facts which have 
hitherto been but imperfectly recognised in the domain of art, there 
should, I think, be every toleration given, for such men have the 
world against them as it is, and established fame, indifference, and 
conventionality are sure to deal them sufficiently hard blows ; and the 
least those who care for pictures and painting can do is to try to under- 
stand for what these eager students are seeking, and to give them 
what encouragement may be possible, if they seem to be seeking it in 
humility and earnestness. For the life of art, like that of all created 
things, depends on change. To cease to change is to cease to 
live ; and the art of one era can no more be wholly adopted by the 
people of another, than a method of thought or a fashion of its 

282 




LI sirrTi; 



Krnin til, 



behaviour. It is useless our protesting against the rising of the tide, 
or to sit, like pictorial Canutes, with our backs to the incoming waves ; 
and if the tendencies of modern art are to enlarge the sphere of sub- 
ject, and to modify the technical methods and aims of the artist, all 
those \yho care to consider the matter seriously, must examine both 
the object, and the manner of the new departure, to see how far 
they can be reconciled with the finer qualities of ancient art, and 
whether they hold out reasonable promise for the art of the future. 

The Salon affords a good opportunity for making this examination, 
as it contains examples of the most modern developments of painting, 
and I shall in the present article only mention such works as illustrate 
the changes which are gradually taking place. The chief difficulty 
of such an examination is to distinguish between what is merely a 
temporary development due to the fashion of the moment, and its 
effect upon the national character ; and what is the result of a per- 
manent alteration induced by fuller knowledge, or necessitated by the 
requirements of a more elaborate form of civilisation. We must 
remember that a certain parochialism has always distinguished 
English art. It has, like the upper middle classes of our country, 
been considered estimable, but not of the highest social importance. 
We have always wanted to have pictures, especially of late years, but 
have desired to have them in a certain passionless, discreet, limited 
way ; desired to have them only so long as they did not interfere 
with our prejudices, or traverse our ideas of propriety. In fact, the 
question of price has always been present with us ; we have only 
been prepared to pay emotionally and intellectually a fixed amount 
for our art ; and, above all, we have restricted the sphere of subject 
and method of treatment, in the interests of conventionality. There 
is no doubt much to be said on either side of this question. The 
French, as a nation', have always been free from this coloured-glass 
style of art ; there has consequently seemed to most of our country- 
men to be a certain violence, and, so to speak, nakedness of statement, 
about our neighbours' fiction and painting. We must not therefore 
be surprised if, in the Gallic pictures of the present day, which are 
the most in accordance with the ideas of the advanced school of 
painters, we find a choice of subjects such as at first sight appears to 
be even more abnormal, even more opposed to the reticences and 
conventions of English painting, than of old. For the great change 
which is coming over the feeling of artists, and is in one way or 
another modifying all they think and all they do, is a change in the 
direction of reality. They draw the subjects of their pictures more 
and more from the occurrences of everyday life, and admit into the 
manner of their representations less and less modification of the 
manner in which these occurrences took place. 

There is no need to point out that, when once the above idea had 

283 



firmly taken root, it necessarily, or at all events probably, would pave 
the way for the almost indefinite extension of the picturesque. When 
subjects were not alone confined to those matters with regard to 
which our sentimental or sensuous emotions were connected, but 
embraced all matters relative to life which the painter could adequately 
depict, it was inevitable that many of the new pictures should appeal 
not so much to our sense of beauty, as to other emotions which had 
hitherto been considered to be beyond the province of art. Suppose 
that a band of artists had become convinced that beauty was dependent 
more upon the realisation of the natural aspect of things than upon 
the arrangement and modification of that aspect according to estab- 
lished tradition, they would be naturally likely to choose for the 
materials of their work, such subjects as the elder school would have 
considered entirely mistaken. They would seek out things trivial, 
things common, things in themselves even repulsive, and try to show 
how kindly the light of heaven fell upon them, and how they too 
had their fitting place in the great Palace of Art. We might expect, 
aprioriy that they would act in this manner, and that the result would 
necessarily be in the first instance grotesque, and even objectionable to 
those who were brought up under the old rule ; and indeed it is to this 
cause we owe many of the pictures in the present Salon — pictures 
which deal with such conventionally unpictorial subjects as a bedside 
lecture in a hospital, the interior of a restaurant, even the contents of 
a butcher's shop. 

I am not saying whether this new development be right or wrong. 
I am simply at the present moment engaged in stating the fact, and 
seeking to suggest the cause. It seems to me that the study of 
Nature, once admitted into poetry, fiction, or painting, necessarily 
must — I will not say end — but pass through, a phase in which the 
purely scientific aspect to a certain extent obscures the purely 
artistic intention. Wordsworth was the inevitable precursor of Zola, 
who is by the irony of fate probably the very last 'writer of whom 
Wordsworth or his admirers would have approved. And just 
as Wordsworth in his day threw off almost entirely the shackles 
of tradition, and sought from Nature herself the materials for 
his work, so the French naturalist painters, as they may appropriately 
be called, are, and have been for the last twenty years, getting rid 
of their traditional swaddling-clothes, and trying to walk about the 
world alone, and unaided by their old nurse — Conventionality. It 
is curious to note that this revolution, which has slowly accomplished 
itself, started— as did the revolution of English painting— in the 
department of landscape. The school of Corot, Millet, Rousseau, 
and Daubigny, which practically rules the whole of French land- 
scape art of the present day, was firmly established long before the 
new school of figure-painters received recognition ; and indeed at 
the present hour the conventional characteristics of French figure- 

284 



painting are still in preponderance amongst the majority of the 
artists. That this is so arises from several causes. To begin with : 
the change to be effected was not so great, the way being prepared 
to a certain extent by the English landscape painters ; for in 
essential characteristics, Gainsborough, Bonington, Linnell, Constable, 
Cox, De Wint, and Turner, to a considerable extent inspired the 
work^ of Rousseau, Daubigny, etc. But in the line of figure- 
painting no such preparation had been made, and artists felt, so 
to speak, the sanction of the old masters, far more strongly. 
To paint a landscape, as it appeared, was bad enough, but to paint a 
figure, without regard to the manner of the grand style, seemed to the 
elder artists almost an impiety : besides which, to the outside public, 
accustomed always before-time to what might be called an artificial 
representation of figure subjects, the attempt to put them down in 
everyday prosaic manner, was far more alarming than if the .picture 
merely treated of such a comparatively impersonal matter as natural 
scenery. 

Like most other popular moveinents, the work of the new school 
ran into a thousand extravagances, and gave much occasion to its 
enemies to blaspheme. Not content with clinging to the new truths 
which they had caught sight of, they disdained all other means of 
support, and would accept nothing less from their adversaries than 
the entire remodelling of ancient practices, and a confession that the 
only saving grace was the one which had been so recently dis- 
covered. Not pausing to consider that in all probability the three or 
four thousand years of artistic example which the world had experi- 
enced, contained some kernel of what was right and requisite, they 
threw overboard, with light hearts, all the ancient equipage of art as 
mere useless lumber, and prepared to navigate their ship without 
compass or rudder — simply with the one bran-new sail of atmo- 
spheric truth. What wonder that tiie bark has been drifting on a 
somewhat erratic course ever since, and that no man knows whither 
it is bound, or whether it will ever reach its destination ? For, with 
Mark Twain's friend the negro, we may say of atmospheric truth, 
that though it may be our brother, it is not our father and mother 
and our uncle and our aunt, and our wife's relations down in the 
country. We are to disregard all the ideas of a subject, all desire for 
beautiful arrangement, all notions of composition, and simply accept 
as the one sufficient subject of a picture, a piece gouged out of Nature, 
as it were with a cheese-scoop, from the first place to which the 
artist came : this, or something very like it, is what our new artists 
would have us believe. It doesn't matter if they paint a picture of 
a crucifixion, or a dish of lights,^ so long as they represent it en pkin 
air. To an ordinary common -sense person the proposition will 
hardly seem worthy of refutation, nor indeed. would many members 

1 There is actually a picture in the Salon of this subject, of the very largest life-size. 

285 



of the school dare to state it in so crude a form. This thesis is, 
however, implied, and is tacitly accepted, by a very considerable 
number of connoisseurs and picture-fanciers ; and slowly but very 
surely this conception of art is making its way amongst our English 
artists, and so needs to be dealt with as a potent factor in con- 
temporary art. It is the development of this proposition to the 
utmost extent which has given rise to the so-called impressionist 
school in France, and to its English modification. 

These artists hold that truthfulness to the impression of any given 
scene is the utmost result which can be accomplished by a painter, 
and that therefore in this first imperfect vision, on the details of which 
the mind is not to be allowed to exert its influence, all the loveliness 
and poetry of art consist ! To paint that which is impressed upon the 
retina jvithin the space during which an eye can be rapidly opened 
and shut — this is the end to which the artist's effort should be 
directed ; so alone can he obtain perfect truth, and in perfect truth 
alone can he find salvation. The theory, one may observe in passing, 
is a specious one, and very fascinating to young men who are eager 
for novelty. It makes every one as good as his neighbour — ay, and 
to use the old expression — a great deal better, — as it sweeps away at 
once all other criteria than the individual impression. 

If a picture is not to be in the future considered good because 
of beautiful form, glow and depth of colour, dignity of aim, tender- 
ness and poetry of meaning, or patient, industrious endeavour to 
depict every portion of its subject with completion and loveliness ; 
but is to rely wholly upon accurately representing the effect of 
a cursory glance, and that at one thing or scene just as well as at 
another, it is evident that art will become at once a matter of very 
different import from that which it has always been considered in past 
times. For, we are tempted to ask, why should we want to decorate 
our houses with, and spend hours in looking at representations of 
what Tom, Dick, and Harry see as they wink their eyes rapidly ? 
We can wink our own eyes if it comes to that, and at the things them- 
selves, all day long, if we find the occupation sufficiently amusing. 
If the painter is to have no special vision, no subtle message, to 
exercise no power of selection or combination, to give us, in fact, no 
result but the reproduction of the quickest impression of Nature 
that we may all see in our winking moments, is there much use, 
for us at least, in his existing at all ? When ordinary everyday 
people want to enjoy a scene in Nature, or to look at an interesting 
object or action, do they set to work to wink their eyes, oi: do they 
simply open them as wide as possible, and look out of them as hard 
as they can ? But the impression is everything, say these young 
men ! Why .■* And why one impression more than another .? Why 

286 










'^^ 






■J^h2^.^,^'^-'^'' '; 



A PRIMEVAL BATHING PLACE 

C. II. SIlAXNiiN 

[•"rem the orisiiia) drawing in the possession ol' tlie aullior 



the incomplete vision rather than the completed one ? Because, say 
they, the first impression is the only visual one — that is, the 
picture imprinted on the retina ; and, consequently, that is the one 
you should reproduce. It will be evident to everybody that this is by 
no means logically sound, even if it be true that there is" one actual 
moment at which the picture on the retina is visually true, unaffected 
by the operation and previous knowledge of the brain. But this 
contention is manifestly erroneous ; we receive no impression, no 
matter how imperfect, without the assistance and the report on it, 
so to speak, of the brain; and there is no one point at which we can 
arrest this modification, or any at which we can say it begins. 

The whole theory is based on a mistaken idea that the report of . 
the eye, if I may use such an expression, can be dissevered from 
all our previous knowledge, from all mental experience; an idea 
which the slightest acquaintance with physiology would suffice to 
disprove. Even, however, as I have said, if it were correct, there 
would still remain to be proved the conclusion th'at because this first 
impression could be set down, that is the result to which the efforts 
of artists should be directed — which seems to me somewhat as if one 
should say that because the alphabet is the first step towards learn- 
ing to read, we should prefer a jumble of letters to more highly 
developed literature. 

But enough of this impressionist theory : it is one which will 
refute itself in time, and already it is losing its hold over the best of 
its followers.^ The naturalist art of such men as Duran, Gervex, 
and others, which is the most prominent characteristic of the present 
Salon, is only but faintly allied to the ultra school of which I have 
been speaking, and it is this of which I must now speak. 

The most popular picture in the Salon is by M. Gervex, and 
shows a clinical lecture by Dr. Pean in the ward of a hospital : 

" En somme, I'harmonie noire des v^tements de nos jours est 
charmante dans les tonalit6s claires ; elle peut varier k chaque 
ceuvre de peintre, selon les milieux, I'heure, I'^clairage, et a au 
moins I'inappreciable avantage d'etre constamment vue, et ^ 
port^e des yeux de tous. A cet 6gard le tableau de M. 
Gervex est absolument remarquable. II est impossible de 
donner mieux I'impression d'un jour d'interieur, de cette atmo- 
sphere impalpable, dclairde par la fen^tre aux rideaux blancs 
releves, modelant de reflets froids les visages, et circulant sur 
les murs nus de la salle d'h6pital. Ce qu'il y a d'air dans 
cette perspective restreinte, en somme est imaginable. On y 

* These words have now been verified. Impressionism is dead amongst the French 
(advanced) school, and has naturally found its home in England : like last year's Paris 
bonnets. 

287 



p^netre, on y est, on y respire. Allons! I'art moderne a du 
bon. Avouez que la redingote n'est pas si redoutable et que 
M. Gervex est un peintre privil6gi4 d'une exquise sensibilite 
d'ceil et d'une rare delicatesse de palette." 

So far, M. Paul Mentz in praise of the modern art and this 
especial sample; and the merits which he finds therein are, really 
there beyond all doubt : the pure tones of the blacks, the impression 
of indoor light, the bold reflections cast on the faces by the white 
hospital curtains, the sense of reality — all these are shown us by 
M. Gervex, not only adequately, but as it were by authority, so 
masterly is his rendering of the subject. And the list of admirable 
qualities is not exhausted even now, for the action and expressions 
of all concerned in this picture are as natural and lifelike as is the 
technical rendering of the atmosphere, light and shade, and colour. 
The Doctor Pean himself, whose demonstration forms the subject 
of the work, is a most admirable piece of character painting — his 
expression full of keen if somewhat pompous intelligence, and the 
little gesture with which he holds his instrument in one hand, while 
he explains its use, tells its story most admirably. What more, 
then, is wanting ? Why should we not carry this work, too, 
through the streets of Paris, as Cimabue's Madonna was carried 
once through Florence in glad rejoicing ? We may with advan- 
tage consider this question a little closely, for on the answer thereto 
depends the future of painting, and indeed, not of painting only, but 
of all the arts. 

Let us get back, if we can, to the most elementary view of the 
matter. Art evidently cannot be good unless it be good for some- 
thing, unless we get from it some result not to be obtained 
otherwise. It must be surely in the highest development of its 
special characteristics that the best kind of art will be found ; 
whether these be or be not conjoined with the qualities of other 
developments of human energy will be comparatively unimportant. 
At all events, let art first of all give us that which she alone possesses ; 
afterwards we will accept from her hands every other good gift. 
What is, then, the vital quality of art? What do we first want 
from pictures ? Why do we desire to have them at all ? Think a 
little ! Is it because of the wonderful workmanship of the painter — 
simply to admire his dexterity, as we would that of a Japanese 
juggler ? Is it only as records of things which are or have been — 
coloured diagrams of life, from which we ask nothing but accuracy 
and plainness of statement ? When we hang pictures upon the 
walls of our rooms, do we do so only as so many columns from a 
pictorial dictionary, so much information that when the barometer 
was low, and the sun at a given altitude, such and such an object 
cast a shadow of a certain value, colour, and shape ? If this be our 

288 




o 









reason for wanting pictures, art is surely a very tame Board-school 
sort of matter. If the vital characteristic of art is only, that its 
record is shaped in form, and expressed by the help of light and 
shade and colour, instead of being written in ordinary characters, 
the world has been making far too great a fuss over painting 
and sculpture for the last three thousand years. The world is too 
full of learning which life is too short to comprehend, for folks 
in general to hang their houses with long statements as to the 
appearances of all things, even though those statements are bounded 
by the four sides of a frame, instead of by the covers of a book. 

Then, if it be not true that this scientific record is the object 
and the characteristic of art, what do we seek therein which we 
could not obtain elsewhere ? The answer is very simple : not fact, 
not learning; but — delight. We seek at once that double gratifi- 
cation of sense and spirit, of what we see and know, and of 
what we feel and dream. The power of art over mankind lies 
in this appeal to both sides of man's nature ; to those emotions 
within him which are gratified by beautiful forms and colours, 
exactly in the same way as the body is gratified by being plunged 
into a warm bath, and to those thoughts, dreams, indefinite and 
half-shaped spiritual perceptions, which make up the life within 
us. And the power of the great artist is, that he can trace this 
life of beauty, and its connection with our life of thought and 
action, through channels whose source and windings are invisible 
to our duller eyes. By his exquisiteness of perception, no less 
spiritual than physical, he can endue the gesture of a tired child 
with a significance as well as grace of which we know nothing, and 
reveal to us, beneath the roughest exteriors, that throbbing pulse 
of beauty, which beats for ever through all natural things, and all 
true development of human emotion. But to do this he must feel 
as well as know; he is not the surgeon, but rather the Sister of 
Mercy of hiankind, and tends his patient not only with skill, but 
with tenderness and prayer. And since the artist is to interpret 
beauty to us, to find it in out-of-the-way places of humanity and 
Nature in which we should pass it by, above all things must he be 
eager in his search, and very human in his emotions. Perhaps no 
very good picture which the world has produced was cold in its 
emotional aspect ; no amount of technical skill in the least atones 
for lack of feeling. 

These considerations prevent me caring greatly for M. Gervex's 
picture, and they seem to me applicable to much of the modern 
French painting, which is at once profoundly skilful, and as pro- 
foundly heartless. Gallic — and I am sorry to say some English — 
artists have of late years grown so absorbed in their pursuit of 
2 p 289 



technical excellence as to have forgotten that painting, aft6r all, is 
but a means to an end, not the end itself; and, as in the old days, 
the gods have granted them their heart's desire, and therewith 
has come the accompanying retribution. The power, the skill, 
and the industry shown in this present exhibition of the Salort are 
simply incredible in their extent ; and despite them all, the visitor to 
the gallery goes away fatigued and depressed, conscious of a multi- 
tude of paintings of consummate ability, and scarcely remembering 
half-a-dozen beautiful pictures. 

There is at the l^cole des Beaux Arts at the present time a small 
collection of works by a dead painter (Jean Frangois Millet), 
which in extent would, if all of them were put together, not cover 
half the space of canvas of many a single picture in the Salon ; yet 
I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that, regarded from the 
point of view of art, the Millet collection (chiefly of pastels, charcoal, 
chalk, and pencil drawings) is worth a hundred exhibitions such 
as the Salon. ^ In it we find a man not only seeing beauty in 
ordinary things, but endowing that beauty with new meaning 
and new pathos, without altering the truth of its appearance. To 
be at the same time simply veracious in statement, and pathetic 
and beautiful in the works in which these statements are made, is 
about the highest praise which can be bestowed upon an artist, 
and this praise is Millet's most certain due. The Breton peasant- 
painter did thoroughly for the real life of the French rustic, a very 
similar work to that which Walker and Mason did for the imaginary 
life of the English countryman — touched it, that is, to fine issues of 
poetry and pathos ; made it at once significant, pictorial, and true. 

The comparison between these artists tells immensely in favour oj! 
the French painter. He was not only a simpler, truer soul, in himself, 
but he drew his inspiration of beauty from a purer, deeper source. 
Examine Fred Walker's peasants and labourers, and one finds them 
beautiful indeed, in both form and gesture ; but the grace which 
they have is not the special grace that belongs to them in life, but 
that which the artist attributes to them from his genius, and, as it 
were, in their own despite. Take as an example one of the 
grandest compositions which this artist ever painted, Speed the 
Plough, and notice the actions of the only two figures therein — the 
man driving the plough through the furrow, and the boy guiding 
the horses. The actions of both are magnificent, and might have 
been copied from a vase of the finest period of Grecian art ; but 
only the slightest acquaintance with country life is needed to inform 
us how little like the actual operation of ploughing — how essentially 
(not untrue, but) uncharacteristic are these poses. The same words 

1 The Angelus by this painter has since been sold for £yi,oiX) — and in Paris ! 

290 



%: 



X'-. 









•\v. 



O. C - ^^5)^ 



apply to the splendid gesture of the labourer removing the pipe 
from his mouth in The Old Gate, and to that of the mower in The 
Harbour of Refuge. These figures are all beautiful in actioii, but 
beautiful despite the characteristics of country labourers, rather than 
because of them. But if we turn to a shepherd or a shepherdess 
by Millet, we find a very different manner of obtaining the result of 
loveliness. The artist clings tenaciously to every indication of the 
effect of labour and exposure— clings to the rough, shapeless 
garments, the slow paces, the exhaustion, the endurance, the 
isolation, and, I might almost say, the terror, of life in the fields and 
the woods ; and it is by realising for us these facts, by bringing 
them into accordance with the dew of the morning and the gloom 
of the twilight, with the shifting seasons and the inconstant sky, 
that he gains the material for his poem. Occasionally, it is true, 
as in The Sower, and again in a lesser degree in the Two Men 
Digging, we have a free unconstrained action, but only where such 
is of the very heart of the subject. It would be correct to say 
of Fred Walker that he made country life beautiful, and of Millet 
that he found it to be so; that Walker's was a townsman's country, 
and Millet's that of a son of the soil. However this may be, 
the collection at the Ecole des Beaux Arts of the latter artist's 
work, emphasises the defect of such painting as that of Gervex and 
his imitators. If in these flat fields and toil-worn people, engaged 
in shearing sheep or cutting faggots, planting potatoes or breaking 
stones, there resides such an intimate secret of loveliness that a 
few scratches of charcoal on a bit of paper, representing them, 
give us so much delight, must there not be something very wrong 
indeed with this elaborate, highly- trained, elaborately -wrought- 
out, gigantic-scaled work of the Salon, which, with all its pounds 
of paint and acres of canvas, awakens no emotion within us but 
that of wonder at the apparently causeless industry of its pro- 
ducers } There is something very wrong ; and, at the risk of 
wearying my readers, I repeat that it is the substitution of technical 
skill for the old end of painting and sculpture, which was to 
express and to excite emotion : to give delight by painting matters 
in which the artist delighted, things which he believed, loved, felt 
to be true. 

What was the secret of Millet's success against every opposition, 
against lifelong poverty and total want of education. It was that he 
understood and cared for the things he depicted ; saw their meaning 
and their connection with life. Do you doubt it ? Here are his 
own words : 

" I must confess, even if you think me a Socialist, that the human 
side of art is what touches me most, and if I could only do what 
I like — or, at least, attempt it — I should do nothing that was not 

291 



an impression from Nature, either in landscape or figures. The 
gay side never shows itself to me. I don't know where it is. 
I have never seen it. The gayest thing I know is the calm, the 
silence, which is so sweet, either in the forest or in the cultivated 
land — whether the land be good for culture or not. You will 
admit that it is always very dreamy, and a sad dream, though 
often very delicious.^ 

" You are sitting under a tree, enjoying all the comfort and quiet 

of which you are capable ; you see come from a narrow path a 

poor creature loaded with faggots. The unexpected and always 

surprising way in which this figure strikes you, instantly reminds 

you of the common and melancholy lot of humanity — weariness. 

It is always like the impression of La Fontaine's Woodcutter in 

the fable : 

" ' What pleasure has he had since the day of his birth j 
Who so poor as he in the whole wide earth ? ' 

" Sometimes, in places where the land is sterile, you see figures 
hoeing and digging. From time to time one raises himself and 
straightens his back, as they call it, wiping his forehead with the 
back of his hand. ' Thou shalt eat thy bread in the sweat of thy 
brow.' Is this the gay, jovial work some people would have us 
believe in ? But, nevertheless, to me it is true humanity and 
great poetry ! " 

I have lingered perhaps over-long in this contrast of Millet's work 
and the naturalistic compositions of the present time, but this artist 
forms a link between the old and new schools, and, with the landscap- 
ists allied to him, inaugurated the revolution which has determined the 
chief direction of modern French Art. Yet these men, who saw poems 
in unaltered Nature, and produced them in colour and form, have 
opened the way for the men who see no poems, nor feel any regret 
at their absence, but prosecute their art with a cold accuracy of 
endeavour, substituting the solution of problems for the delineation 
of beautiful things ! 

Meanwhile it must be confessed that, if we grant the desirability of 
their aim, the industry and ability of the artists of this school are 
almost beyond praise. Not to speak of the work of such masters as 
Gervex and Brouillet, there are men such as Girardot, Raffaelli, Duez, 
Dantan, and many others, producing pictures which, for truth of 
out and indoor light and effects of atmosphere, are unsurpassable. 
Girardot 's great picture in the present exhibition, of Ruth and Boaz, 
.is a composition of this kind, which, though almost repellent at the 

* Finding this quotation in Sensier's Life of Millet gave me, I own, the keenest pleasure. 
This is the theory of the power and right use of art, in which I have always believed and tried 
to teach. To find it shared by one of the greatest artists of modem times was indeed good ! 

292 



first glance, becomes most technically admirable when closely ex- 
amined, from the truth of effect and the evidently desperate 
struggle of the painter to get the strongest possible rendering of the 
fact he had selected. The subject here (Ruth and Boaz) might be 
Jack and Jill as far as the interest of the picture is concerned, which 
depicts simply the effect of a bright moonlight without and within a 
dark farm-shed, in which Ruth and Boaz sit resting. Without and 
within— that is the keynote of the artist's idea ; the flood of light, 
soft, brilliant, and tremulous, breaking in through the open door of 
the shed, and bringing into relief portions of the seated figures, and 
then gradually fading away into darkness amid the beams and wood- 
stacks and farm implements. A really marvellous piece of work this, 
in its daring, and the success of its main attempt ; nor is it without a 
certain vague poetry, which seems to show that M. Girardot might 
also have made the picture delightful from the point of view of sub- 
ject, if he had not been too busy with his special problem to care 
about so doing. 

It is hopeless to speak at any useful length of the general landscape 
work which we find in the Salon ; it is beyond all comparison finer 
than our English work in the same department, whether we regard 
it from the point of view of style, of truth, or of technical accomplish- 
ment. Our English Academy has to the best of its ability killed the 
landscape art of England, by neglecting the men who studied that 
branch, and by electing to its ranks only the more superficial land- 
scape painters of the Scotch school. But the Scotch school of land- 
scape is not only a school without poetry and depth of meaning — a 
school of half-a-dozen effects of mist and sunshine, which it repeats 
without variation from year to year : it is also, and beyond all else, a 
school without style — with no connection with any of the great quali- 
ties of bygone art, and which has substituted nothing for that defect. 
Such painters as Harpignies, Duez, Rapin, Nozal, Vernier, Laurens, 
Flandrin, Penet, Hanoteau, and perhaps above all (if only for his 
beauty of colour) Le Roux, have no rivals at the present time in 
English art. They are simply miles and miles beyond us, not only 
in their technical skill, but in the scale of their impressions. They 
see the scene as a whole, not in detached bits ; they see the scene as 
it is, not as it prettily might be; they see the scene too with a 
certain dignity, a certain quality of style very difficult to describe, 
but which continually saves their work from being merely a sort of 
natural history painting, as it for the most part restrains them from 
weakening their pictures with the flabby parochial sentimentality of 
which our own artists are so fond. Take the green depths of the 
forest as painted here by Pelouse ^ (one of the very greatest land- 

1 I know it is the fashion in Paris to laugh at this old master, but— fashion passes, and 
good work remains. 

293 



scapists living), and notice how entirely convinced the artist appears 
to have been that in the slender stems of his trees, the quivering light 
that falls on trunk and leaf, the thick moss which covers the stones 
of the little brook — that in all these things there was quite enough 
interest, not to say beauty, to justify his great picture. And there 
is enough as he has painted them ; he has touched them all with a 
general, if not a particular sentiment ; we seem, on looking at the 
picture, to lose sight of the special wood, and only remember the 
stillness, the shadow, the broken light, the peace and fragrance which 
we have known in similar scenes. Call it abstract quality or style, 
or by whatever name you will, this characteristic of French landscape 
is one which enhances its merit very greatly — at all events to the 
present writer. It takes the picture from the category of mere repro- 
duction, and brings it into perceptible relation with the great art of 
the past, and if it does not suggest the poetical or pathetic charm 
of the relation of Nature to man, which is probably the highest 
development of which landscape painting is capable, it does succeed in 
treating the multitudinous facts, in obedience to a definite intention. 
Why should a human being with brains and a soul, as well as eyes, 
simply go out into the first field or hedgerow, and stick his spade 
into Nature, and, bringing home the result triumphantly, call it a 
landscape picture ? Not pictures at all are nine out of ten of modern 
English landscapes : studies for pictures they frequently are, but 
rarely more : they are bits taken here, there, or anywhere, without 
relation, combination, or object. 

Let any one who doubts the above fact examine carefully the 
pictures at the Royal Academy, and he will find that there is 
only one real landscape in the present exhibition, and that is by a 
man over sixty years old (Mr. Hook, R.A.), who belongs to the 
last generation. To depict a patch of light on a hillside, the trans- 
parency of a wave, the glow of a sunset, is a worthy and desirable 
object for an artist ; but the result^ is not 2, picture, but -a, study. And 
as folks ought to know, but as our English painters will ignore, a 
picture is made up of many studies affected by a special purpose. It 
is the recognition of this purpose by the spectator which removes the 
work from the purely reproductiveness of a study, to the artistic rank 
of a picture. It is the knowledge that a human intelligence, as well 
as a skilful human hand, has been at work on the materials of Nature, 
subduing them to settled predetermined ends, using (not abusing) 
them for a definite purpose. This is the human element in landscape 
painting, and it is in proportion as this intelligence is elevated and 
in sympathy with our deepest feelings, that landscape pictures gain 
in beauty. 

One cause no doubt of this superiority of French landscape, of 
which I have been speaking, is the superior thoroughness of their 

294 



1i V 1^ ~ir )•■ 



''"^b 1^1 




■f, 



■r. 



artistic education, and the habit of working on a large scale. I have 
no space to dwell on the details of these facts — they are well enough 
known to need but little comment ; but I cannot leave this subject 
without pointing out, especially to English students, how humiliating 
this Salon exhibition is to us in the extraordinary industry and pluck 
which the young artists display. Knowing what I do of the straits 
to which many of them are reduced, and of the difficuhies of every kind 
which attend the production of a large picture, there is something 
splendid in watching these young men, who generally are far poorer, 
and live far more economically than English painters, spend their 
last dollar upon a huge canvas — twenty feet square or so, and hurl 
thirty or forty life-size figures thereon — with as great a determination 
as if they had the Bank of England at their back, and the reputation 
of Michelangelo. 

No doubt their works are crude, exaggerated, most defective in 
various ways — often insolent, sometimes brutal. " But," as Tom 
Thurnall would have said, " these painters are men at least " ; they 
are alive with pulses throbbing in obedience to a vigorous 
humanity ; there is about them none of the whine, the fine-finger 
affectation, the sickly morbid fear of spoiling their genius by bring- 
ing its results before the world, to which many of us Englishmen 
are prone. I like to think of these shabby-coated young fellows, in 
their garrets of the Latin quarter, standing before huge Death of 
CcBsar, Triumph of Joan of Arc, or Apotheosis of Victor Hugo, or 
whatever be the subject of their picture, plastering on their great 
pounds of unpaid-for paint, with cheerful confidence, and dining after- 
wards, midst a great deal of noise, and practical jokes, and thick clouds 
of cigarette smoke, at a twenty-sous restaurant. They are types of 
the race who shove the world along in their profession ; they mean 
business, to use an expressive slang phrase, and they have their 
reward : the fierce competition for the prizes, the watchful eye of the 
Government always to put Commands par IE tat upon any unusually 
good ambitious attempt by an unknown painter, the habit of tackling 
subjects of tremendous difficulty, and, well or badly, pulling them 
through — all this keeps them up to the mark, till their business is learnt, 
and their reputation, if it may be, assured. It is no use for English 
artists or critics to minimise these facts ; no use for us to bestow an 
easy sneer at the horrible subjects, and the vast sizes of these Salon 
pictures. The subjects are frequently horrible, it is true ; but why ? 
Because they are wholly unconventional ; because they cover, or 
attempt to cover, the whole ground of human interest. We who go 
on repeating from year to year our Vicars of Wakefield, our Georgian 
costumes, our pictures of Scotch moor and Cornish coast, our silver 
birch tree or shining waves, are safe enough from such a condem- 
nation ; but the safety is on the whole inglorious. The material 

295 



of our artists is, I believe, as fine as that of any nation, but their 
training — in narrowness and blindness, in absence of all encourage- 
ment and all guidance — is contemptible, and unworthy of a great 
nation. 

The Government and the Academy between them might remedy 
this state of things in no small degree, but it will never be really 
altered till there grows up amongst our people themselves, a less 
pettifogging, less parochial view of art ; till our countrymen cease to 
place Mrs. Grundy in the seat of judgment on their books and their 
pictures, and allow to the arts the freedom on which alone they can 
really flourish. Pictures are, after all, but experiences of life, and life 
is not constructed with a view to the axioms of the copybooks, or 
the cheek of the young person. 



296 



\ I. 





I.— ART AT THE ROYAL ACADEMY— TRADITIONS 
AND CHANGES, 1872-1890. 

HE first portion of the following essay (i 872-1 882) 
was originally written in Rome, where I was then 
studying sculpture in Signor Spelta's studio in the 
spring of 1883, and without books of reference other 
than the catalogues of the Royal Academy Exhibi- 
tion, which I was fortunate enough to be able to 
borrow from an old artist friend. This may perhaps explain if it 
does not excuse the omission of many pictures which certainly 
deserved notice, but which had passed away from my remembrance, 
or so nearly passed as to preclude their criticism. The introductory 
remarks I leave as written. The second portion (1882-1890) is 
mainly composed of revised extracts from my Spectator articles. 

But it seems to me that there is a great need in England just now 
of Art writing which can be definitely traced to its first principles. 
Believing that the power and beauty of Art are intimately connected 
with its relation to life, and to the great passions, desires, sufferings, 
and joys of humanity, I have tried for some years to show how such a 
belief may be substantiated. The question of how far this relation- 
ship is inextricably entwined with the beauty of the form in which it 
is expressed is, perhaps, the greatest crux in art, and sometimes one 
sees very splendid art in which the relationship is almost invisible. 
But if sought for sincerely, it is, as far as my experience goes, always 
there. A beautiful thing — statue, picture, or building — may always 
be traced back to its connection with the great facts of life ; remove it 
utterly therefrom, and its true beauty fails. Boucher's cherubs are 
pretty, not beautiful — Raphael's are beautiful, not pretty ; the one 
altogether unakin to life, the others simply children touched with 
some divine influence. The one man in England who might have 
2 Q 297 



seen this truth and made others see it, and recognises all its 
significance, is Mr. Ruskin; but, and I say it with the profoundest 
reverence for his genius, and gratitude for the work he has done, he 
has been led away by the necessity (the fancied necessity) of tracing 
a special moral and religious principle throughout. What Mr. 
Herbert Spencer calls the theological bias is evident in most of his 
reasonings on this subject, and, where that enters, like any other 
bias, the judgment is vitiated. For art is limited to no creed, any 
more than beauty is limited to one country, or one race Wherever 
men and women live and love, and suffer and enjoy there art, too, 
can live, and will do so, not only in accordance with their virtues, 
but with their failings— perhaps, even with their crimes. This is 
the truth that Ruskin resists. He refuses the name of art to work 
in which the morality appears to him to be false or even wanting. 
Such at least is the tendency of his writing. He forgets those wise 
words- of the old circus-master in Dickens' Hard Times, " Folks can't 
alius be a thinkin', 'thquire, nor yet alius a learnin' ; folks must be 
amuthed ; make the best of us, 'thquire, and not the worst." 

All true art is a true expression of life, and life is very complex, 
very faulty, and often very base. The relation does not cease 
because the artist chooses to represent that which is a defect rather 
than a glory of humanity ; nor because he is himself erring. We 
may blame his choice from a moral point of view, we may even 
banish his pictures as we do Rousseau's Confessions, or Gauthier's 
great love-story, but don't let us stultify our reason and our judgment 
by saying that the art itself must be bad, because its motive is 
imperfect. The world is not made better by perfect means : mixed 
motives produce all the good we know. What we do want in art 
is that it should never lose its grip upon life, upon the great facts of 
nature, feeling, and thought with which we are all concerned. All 
else is nihil ad rem, useful for a moment's pleasure, but alien to 
everything that helps on the day. 

Certain things in the world are beautiful in outside form or inner 
meaning; certain others become so through their connection with 
their surroundings or with alien facts, or by their appeal to true 
human interests — within this range (is it not a sufficiently large 
one ?) lies the field of true art ; concerned to gather and bind into 
a whole the scattered threads of beauty and interest which lie 
unheeded about the world. And such as is the quality of the mind 
and heart of the artist, so must be in the main his art. He may 
confuse our perception of his ignorance by the dexterity of his hand, 
and use his knowledge of technique to conceal the emptiness of his 
heart, but he can never touch us with his skill, save when he has 
previously been touched himself, can never make us feel where he 
has not previously felt. One wanders through the French Salon, 

298 



and is amazed at the power, dexterity, or technical excellence of the 
great mass of the pictures, and wonders why the effect of the whole 
should be so unutterably wearying and depressing — should leave 
so little impression. Is it not because the artists are painting to 
show us what they can do, rather than tell us what they feel ? 

Those who think that art is a great mystery, of which only its 
high priests hold the key, who fancy that a painting can be great 
for some inscrutable, unexplainable reason, lose sight of the fact, that 
if this were so, half the real power of art would be gone. Pictures 
are only great when they express with deeper perception or 
intenser feeling than that of the majority — some fact of thought 
or emotion which is true in its relation to life. It need not be a 
noble one — for all men are not noble, nor all emotions worthy. 
Veronese's devotion to Splendour produced as true, though not 
as exquisite, an art as Titian's devotion to the beauty of the human 
form ; and Rubens' coarseness and vulgarity of nature did not 
prevent his art possessing the beauty of strength and imaginative 
freedom. 

Previous to the last twenty years, our traditions were in the main 
derived from the Dutch rather than the Italian schools. For this 
there were many reasons — the prevalence of Dutch influence on the 
nation, the comparative propinquity of the country, the greater 
similarity between the character of the inhabitants of Holland and 
England, the solid technical excellence of the Dutch painting — and 
many others. For whatever cause, the majority of English figure 
paintings were founded upon the principles of the Dutch and Flemish 
schools, and aimed rather at solidity of workmanship, and careful 
attention to chiaroscuro, than at vivid imagination, splendour of 
design, or brilliancy of colouring. The school was not a great one, 
but was safe, and on the technical side sound. It had, moreover, a 
certain simplicity which was in harmony with the English character. 
A little stupid, a little dull, and perhaps a little brutal (think, for 
instance, of Wilkie's Village Festival), it was sincere, sturdy, and 
national. Not unlike the novels of Sir Walter Scott, in honesty of 
purpose, freedom from morbid feeling or minute analysis. The 
danger of the style as a national one was the foundation upon 
excellence of technique, rather than upon natural fact — for the Dutch 
work owed its greatness not only to technique, but to what George 
Eliot with her usual insight calls "the rare, precious quality of truth- 
fulness in these Dutch paintings." 

And when the English schools first followed in the track of the elder 
masters, they too clung a little to this precious quality. Look at the 
earlier figure pictures of this century, and much of their charm will 
be found to reside in their truth. The main principle of the Dutch 

299 



schools, which is the sacrifice of colour in shadow, for the sake of 
relative brilliancy in light, is too technical a one to speak of here. 
Still, it must be noticed, that the adoption of this principle produced 
the sham Rembrandt kind of chiaroscuro of which we have had in 
England so many examples. 

But the great defect of the Dutch school, the exaltation of 
technique into a sufficient motive for a picture, irrespective of its 
subject, soon began to obtain in England, and before the decade of 
which I have to speak, the Academy traditions had entirely lost sight 
of all but the technical excellence and completion of brushwork in 
Dutch painting, to which they still clung firmly — as a sailor to the 
last morsel of wreck. Dim feelings were no doubt stirring in the 
Academic mind as to whether something was not rotten in the state 
of Denmark, even before Mr. Ruskin wrote Modern Painters, and 
the young pre-Raphaelites stirred the muddy waters with so vigorous 
a hand, and at any rate from that time — say from 1850 to 1872 — 
the symptoms of the coming change were evident. 

And when the pre-Raphaelite idea was once fairly grasped, the 
death knell of the old regime sounded. Now, the pre-Raphaelite 
idea was partly at all events an Italian one ; the Academy tradition 
was, as I have said, Dutch, and between these, from 1850 to 1872, 
there was fought a good fight, none the less real because silent, and 
never clearly proclaimed ; for not only, or indeed chiefly, the pre- 
Raphaelites themselves were affected by this movement, but it 
stirred the blood of antagonists as well as sympathisers, and those 
who least agreed with the so-called pre-Raphaelite^ manner, adopted 
to a very considerable extent the idea of which that manner was but 
the crude expression. Those, too, who disdained the earlier Italian 
masters, began to study in defiance the later painters of the same 
school, and to imagine that the traditions of Titian and Tintoretto 
might have as much to recommend them as those of Rembrandt, 
Teniers, and Ostade. No wonder that those who adhered to the old 
traditions felt the ground to be slipping away from under their feet, 
and despairingly endeavoured to effect a compromise between the 
old and the new, between Holland and Italy, between prose and 
poetry. No longer a Village Festival, or a Crossing the Brook, or 
Choosing the Wedding Gown, etc. etc., formed the subject of the 
painting, but a sentimental scene from Pamela or The Vicar of 
Wakefield, a semi-imaginative historical episode, or some dream of 
classical legend, or religious history. 

The leaven, however, was too real to be resisted ; the truth, or, at 
all events a hint of the truth, had got abroad and was beginning to 
be recognised. The painters, whose predecessors had been conven- 

1 See the Essay on the Pre-RaphaeUte Brotherhood. 
300 



tional in their treatment, but sincere and simple in their feelings, had 
been succeeded by a generation who were equally conventional, but 
far less sincere, and who, in deference to the supposed wish of the 
time, endeavoured to supply the place of truth with sentiment, and 
beauty with picturesqueness. Though these latter had formed for the 
twenty years we have mentioned, and the twenty preceding, the bulk 
of the Academy — their hour was come, and their fall and that of 
their theories is already matter of history. But in their stead, and 
side by side with their last efforts, there sprang up, what ? Well, 
such a war of opposing creeds and theories as, perhaps, was never 
before seen. On the one hand the pre-Raphaelites, real and imitation, 
on the other the Scotch Impressionists; here, echoes from the " Beaux 
Arts" there, fresh dry traditions from Munich or Dusseldorf. Realists 
on the one hand, idealists on the other, and everywhere of course con- 
ventionalists, treading despondently yet safely in their habitual road. 
Every one doing what is right in his own eyes and wrong in his 
neighbour's ; not a single principle generally admitted, not a single 
practice in common. 

The old days of contented dulness were over for ever, the days 
of unrest, and diversity of aim and method had arrived. The last 
trace of the old order of things faded with the death of Sir Francis 
Grant, and the election of Sir Frederick Leighton in his stead ; but 
we are still no nearer to an artistic creed than we were before. Out 
of the divine forty who constitute the Royal Academicians, it would 
be hopeless to extract any agreement as to either the aims or the 
methods of the art they practice ; to parody Tennyson — 

" They do but draw because they must, 
And paint but as the linnets sing." 

The majority, indeed, would probably deny that any principle or any 
aim in common was possible. As one of them once said to me, 
apropos of his own work — " Meaning in a picture ! I hate the word ; 
who wants any meaning in a picture ? There's no meaning in my 
pictures ! " I remember humbly suggesting that possibly people in 
general preferred one, but I was laughed to scorn. 

However, to return to our subject. For much of the hopeless 
diversity of aim amongst our painters Mr. Ruskin is in one way 
responsible, for he headed the revolt from tradition to nature, 
and many of those who either adopted or were influenced by his 
teaching, have stuck fast in the clutches of a dull realism which is as 
far removed from great landscape art as if it were the most conven- 
tional of methods. The race of English landscapists which during 
the first half of the present century seemed to promise such great 
things has died out ; we have no one living in this branch of art who 

301 



is equal to Turner, Linnell, David Cox, De Wint, or even Samuel 
Palmer, most limited and most delightful of painters. Indeed, we can 
hardly be said to have a living landscapist at all. The most sincere 
landscape artists living are Mr. Hook, Mr. Alfred Hunt, Mr. Albert 
Goodwin, Mr. Thomas Collier, and Mr. Aumonier.^ Of these Mr. 
Hook is more of a sea and seaside painter than a landscapist in 
the usual sense of the word, and is besides one of the elder genera- 
tion who has almost ceased to paint. Mr. Collier and Mr. Aumonier, 
both chiefly known as water-colour painters, carry on worthily the 
tradition of Cox and Linnell. In my review of the 1877 Exhibition, 
I have spoken more at length of the various kinds of landscape art ; 
it is sufficient to say here that much of its deficiency arises, doubtless, 
from the peculiar temper of the present day. Confidence in elder 
theories is gone, and nothing as yet has taken its place but a study 
of nature, which will no doubt bear fruit in time, but its season is not 
as yet. 

The look-out in the direction of figure -painting is still more 
depressing. The English figure-pictures in the Academy of late years 
have with scarcely an exception been either cheap, sentimental scenes 
of everyday life, costume compositions of little merit and less interest, 
or echoes, more or less indistinct, from the schools of France, Antwerp, 
or Munich. Here and there an artist like Mr. Watts or Mr. Poynter 
is struggling to do serious work in a worthy manner, but the excep- 
tion is rare, and a strange foreign element is working its way amongst 
us, and giving an air of boulevard and casino to much of what should 
be our best painting.^ 

One thing is evident, the simplicity of English painting is gone for 
ever ; we must now go through the same mill as our continental neigh- 
bours, and if we are to have a great art in the future, it will have to 
be founded upon a wider basis than of old. The fashion of the day 
has had much to do with this. An artist is no longer a simple work- 
man doing his work for rational pleasure and honest pay. He has 
of late been erected into a little Society god ; he lives in a palace, 
and is courted by the world, the Society papers (which have done so 
much to ruin English social life) chronicle his doings and applaud his 
eccentricities, and so he becomes a hot-house plant and lacks vitality. 
He knows more, but he feels less. He is cultivated rather than 
sensitive, instructed rather than wise. And, being a patron of Society, 
he must perforce comply with its conventions of many kinds, and 
loses his old sincerity of purpose. 

Outspokenness is very rude now in pictures, as well as at flower- 
shows ; and with this new life there has come for the artist the 

1 Mr. Hine (the elder), Mr. Alfred Parsons, and, at his best, Mr. Wimperis should be 
added to the above list of painters, of whom one only (Mr. Hook) is a member of the Academy .' 

2 Let me remind readers once more that this essay was written in the spring of 1883. 

302 




TIS NOT THE HABIT MAKES THE MONK 



G. F. WATTS. H. A. 



necessity of increased expenditure, and therefore increased gains ; 
and so he, like all the rest of us, gets scrambling for the mighty 
dollar, and paints not what he likes best or believes in most, but that 
of which the public will buy most. The fashion for art, of which we 
hear so much praise, has, nevertheless, nearly destroyed our painters. 

And there are many other causes which I must not dwell on here 
— the decay of religious belief, the decadence of national morality, the 
growing tendency to copy the worst fashions of our Continental 
neighbours, and to despise the insularity of feeling of which we were 
once so proud ; all of these militate in some measure against the 
growth of any great national school of painting. The Universality of 
Sir Frederick Leighton, on the one hand, is as distracting as the 
eclecticism of Mr. Ruskin on the other ; and, while the former will 
admire a cocotte, a contadina, or a countess with equal ardour, the 
other will look at nothing but an English Girl by an English Painter: 
the truth, however, is more nearly with the last than with the first 
mentioned of these. 

It must be ourselves by ourselves which shall form the foundation of 
our future art. Englishmen painted by Bavarians, Americans, or 
Belgians, will never have a truly national life ; and foreigners painted 
by ourselves are equally hybrid, whether they are ancient Greeks or 
modern Parisians. There are a few great traditions which are the 
property, not of a nation, but the whole world, and in these all 
painters, poets, and musicians have an equal share, but for the rest 
we are what God made us and shall be, and our painters must make 
what they can out of the rude material. After all there has been a 
good deal of stuff m the nation in former days, perhaps even traces 
of the old divine fire may linger yet if they are sought for. 

The truth is best, however unpalatable, and the truth is that there 
is no very great art in England just now. Much art there is of 
exquisite merit in its minor way, and some of which is imperfectly 
striving after the highest qualities. Butof art serenely accomplishing 
work which will live, there is little or none. The perfection of Sir 
Frederick Leigh ton's technique will not save his dainty -skinned 
damsels from the oblivion that awaits them ; they will not die, for 
they have never lived, but they will cease to charm. The portraits 
of Mr. Watts approach most nearly to the dignity and suggestiveness 
of great painting, and they have occasionally qualities of colour such 
as entitle them to rank with the highest. But they are imperfectly 
realised, and far too unequal to form a type of excellence ; the painter 
has never entirely mastered his method, or rather he has never had 
a method that was not an experimental one.^ 

Probably the most vital of contemporary English art, is that of Mr. 

1 But see the paper on Watts. 



Burne- Jones, and Mr. Holman Hunt, the representative pre-Raphaelite, 
but this is so totally distinct from all Academy traditions, that it is not 
to be considered here ; ^ and it is, besides, one in which the strength 
and the weakness are so curiously intermingled, that it seems doubtful 
whether its merits could ever exist without its characteristic defects. 
It expresses the unrest, the soft regret for lost beauty of life, the 
sense of transitoriness and futility, which are so deeply impressed upon 
most of our best modern poetry and thought ; in a healthier time, its 
appeal to us would be less powerful. His painting is classic to our 
failures, but not to our joys. 

And here, before I pass to the notes upon each special Academy 
exhibition, I would say a word in remembrance of one great artistic 
genius of our day, who was not a member of the Academy, and who, 
throughout his life, was neglected and misunderstood. This was 
Alfred Stevens the sculptor, an artist who, with the capacity for being 
the greatest man of his day, was occupied by our discriminating 
English public during the chief part of his life in designing decorative 
stoves and ornamental chimney-pieces. The one great work of his 
life, the Wellington Memorial, is to be seen huddled away in a corner 
of St. Paul's, and, lacking the statue of the soldier which was to have 
crowned the monument — very literally Hamlet, with the character of 
the Prince of Denmark left out. It is amusing at the same time that 
it is pathetic, to know that the wise authorities who so deal with the 
greatest piece of sculpture of our time, and who refuse to expend the 
2^5000 or so necessary to complete the artist's design, are going, at 
the present time, to expend, perhaps, twenty times that sum, in covering 
the interior of the dome with sham mosaics, which, in all human prob- 
ability, will not be able to be seen when they are constructed. It is 
a strange piece of the irony of fate, that the President, and one of the 
chief Academicians, have been called in to complete with their designs 
this scheme, the architectural skeleton of which was originally designed 
by Stevens himself.^ However, I must not linger over this question, 
but, leaving generalities here, speak of the exhibitions in detail] 
beginning with that of 1872. 

y Q ^» ^ This exhibition was remarkable for possessing the two 
±0/2 ^^^^ pictures of that idyllic school which Mason and 
/ Walker may almost be said to have founded in Eng- 

land. The Harvest Moon, by the first, and the Harbour of Refure 
by the second of these artists, were then both exhibited for the first 
time, and mark the highest point to which either artist attained. 

1 Of course Mr. Burne-Tones has since been elected an Associate, but that does not render 
his art Academic. Indeed, he has only exhibited once since his election, and has. I am told 
announced his intention never to exhibit again! ' 

!, \!J^ ^.xf^T^ "^If recognised Alfred Stevens as a sculptor, but prefen-ed Mr Weekes 
and Mr. Woolner. Now nine years after the above words were written, Sir Frederick 
Leighton has discovered that the Wellington Memorial would look better if t were to stand 
in the nave, and a subscription is being raised for the purpose ! 

304 



There is also a certain similarity between them of subject, style, and 
method of thought ; and, though both are marked by an exquisite 
sense of colour, there is also to be found in them a quality of design 
which is more akin to the art of sculpture than painting. Or which, 
perhaps, it would be more rightly said, is only to be found in those 
painters whose sympathies are allied rather to the Greek than to the 
Italian schools. This was the case with both artists. Mason, during 
his two years' residence in Italy, had imbibed much of the spirit of 
classic art, and in Walker the grace of action and propriety of gesture 
of ancient sculpture, were visible from the very first. The paintings 
were yet very different in their main effect, and showed clearly the 
distinction of character between their respective artists. The Harvest 
Moon, a long low picture with many figures of reapers and their 
sweethearts going home after the day's work, had scarcely more 
affinity with facts, than an idyll by Theocritus has with the everyday 
life of the peasant. One felt irresistibly on looking at it, that the 
work was justified by its beauty ; but that this thing was not, and 
never could be, true. Not false, for it was too frankly unpretentious 
to reality ; and not futile, for it had that exquisiteness of beauty which 
sanctions art, if it does not morality ; its appeal to the spectator was 
purely unconnected with the reality of the story that was told. In 
Arcadia, such labourers and girls might have moved thus slowly 
homeward to the sound of their pipes and violins ; but not in Eng- 
land, not in Italy, not in any land that we see, save in dreams. 

The Harbour of Refuge, on the other hand, relied for its power 
upon truth alone. It was a picture of some red alms-houses flushed 
with sunset light, a few figures of the old inhabitants dotted about 
under the trees, or in the gravelled walks ; and in the foreground a 
grass plot half covered with daisies, which a mower was swiftly reap- 
ing. The chief figures of the picture were those of the mower, and 
two women who were coming slowly down the long walk towards 
him. Moral we can hardly say the composition had, or was meant 
to have ; but it was full of delicate hints of meaning. The young 
woman in the pride of life and beauty, supporting, with somewhat 
disdainful ease, the steps of her aged companion ; the free, careless, 
toil of the mower, indifferent alike to the beauty of the daisies beneath, 
and the sunset above ; the unalterable patience and self-concentration 
of age ; all of these were there, expressed with grand impartiality, 
and framed and suffused with a beauty that greatly enforced their 
meaning. A most true, exquisite, and pathetic picture, missing, 
perhaps, the perfect dreamy loveliness of balanced form and tender 
grace, to be found in The Harvest Moon, and just shadowed with 
a gloomy feeling of weariness and futility, but secure in just appeal 
to the facts of life and death, and to that unheeded beauty of Nature 
which surrounds us all. In the sense of great art there was nothing 
2 R 305 



to compare with these, and it is worth noting that a melancholy 
interest attaches to them of being almost the last works of their 
authors. Mason never exhibited at the Academy again, and died 
(if I remember rightly) in the following year. Walker sent one small 
picture in 1875, The Right of Way, and died the same autumn. 
About that time died also George Pinwell ; and so within three years 
perished the three English painters who stood alone in their power of 
combining figures and landscape. 

The next painter whose work was memorable in this year was John 
Lewis. The Prayer of Faith shall heal the Sick was one of those 
Eastern scenes of which this artist painted so many, and represented 
the interior of a house with an old priest reading the Koran, and 
grouped round him the women of the family. Though technically 
of great perfection, it was a large and somewhat uninteresting picture, 
as Mr. Lewis' compositions of many figures were wont to be, for 
this artist was singularly incapable of seizing the dramatic meaning 
of a scene, and was at his best in subjects where his marvellous 
powers of execution could be concentrated upon details of dress, 
flowers, or architecture. Emotion worried him, his work required 
absolute calm, unfailing certainty, and inexhaustible patience. How 
inexhaustible that patience was could be seen in the second picture. 
The Lilium Auratum. In it there are only two figures, a young 
Persian lady and her maid, and the scene is at the door of the house, 
behind which we catch a glimpse of an orange grove and a patch of 
bright blue sky. The girl has been to pick a bouquet of roses, etc., 
for her lover, and the maid-servant is standing behind her, laughing 
at her sentimentality. Such, at least, seems to be the meaning, but 
it is of little importance. The really valuable part of the work is the 
work itself, the absolute putting on of the paint. A good deal is 
said, just now, about delicacy of execution, but here is execution of 
which the delicacy is scarcely conceivable. The chief effect, in fact, 
produced upon a painter by the picture, is amazement, not only at its 
delicacy, but at the prodigality of labour which has been bestowed 
thereon. The figures are surrounded by flowers of various kinds — 
are clothed with elaborate robes of many colours, each covered with 
elaborate design, and there is very literally not a square inch of the 
work into which minute and unsparing labour has not been poured 
almost wantonly. Execution such as this is akin to genius in its 
rarity, and akin to it too in the pleasure which it gives, though the 
pleasure is, of course, not that of creative work, but depends on the 
perfect realisation of things which may be trivial or uninteresting in 
themselves. In truth a Missal painting art, and admirable more for the 
loving skill and patience of its workman, than in itself. 

Mr. Frank HoU's / am the Resurrection and the Life might well 

306 




THE SISTERS. — GioRi,L Pinuiii, 



be placed as a counterpoise to Mr. Lewis' brilliancy, but in its 
way was equally sincere. A dark funeral-picture, with mourning 
figures gathered round an open grave, under the greyest of skies. 
Could we have a greater contrast than this to Persian sunshine, 
trailing robes of crimson and gold, and a maiden gathering roses 
for her lover ? This was one of the finest of those delineations 
of the mournful side of life by which Mr. Holl made his reputation, 
and should be ranked with his earlier composition of The Lord gave, 
and the Lord hath taken away, to which it was perhaps intended to be 
a companion. Mr. Holl set a difficult problem to his admirers in 
those days, and one that was tolerably new to the English public. 
English painting had aforetime been confined to pleasant things ; 
or, at all events, if it touched tragedy, had done so in a frank 
Shakespearian manner, meant to be interesting, or exciting, but 
scarcely heartrending.. But here was a painter who deliberately 
set himself to harrow our feelings, and who was no doubt successful 
in so doing. Anything more dreary and more depressing than the 
two pictures above-mentioned is not to be found in the whole range 
of art, ancient or modern : even Israels himself, who carries joyless- 
ness to the pitch of mania, is more frank and therefore more bearable 
in his want and woe than Mr. Holl, and hides in the merciful 
darkness of his cottage interiors, hints of peace and comfort.^ Yet 
these were genuine, and in one sense, almost great pictures ; they 
struck a note in modern art which may possibly rise to be the 
dominant one. The traditions of the schools are passing away ; 
the costume art is dying fast, and it is pictures like these which 
devote unsparing power to the facts of everyday life that are 
hastening the change. It is perhaps inevitable that the most 
picturesque elements in modern life should be those which are con- 
nected with the sorrowful emotions, or perhaps it is only the reaction 
from the days of pleasant futilities which makes such work acceptable. 

Mr. Holl has now deserted his former style, and become almost 
entirely a portrait painter — the finest f)ortrait painter we have, with 
the exception of Watts and Millais — but the scent of the roses clings 
to him still ! and often in the delineation of a decent father of a 
family, a grave senator, or a reverend dean, there flashes out a 
little of that dark tragical feeling which marked his earlier painting. 
Like Hamlet, his mourning livery lies deeper than his outward garb, 
and probably he could not, if he would, paint a picture which had 
not some trace of desolation in its beauty.^ 

Mr. Cecil Lawson, the young landscape painter who died so 
suddenly last year, had a small picture called A Lament in this 

^ The feeling of these works by Mr. Holl is probably due to the study of modem French 
art. They have a shadow of " Montmartre " cast upon English daisies. 
* See the Essay on Frank Holl. 



exhibition commemorating the establishment of the works for the 
making of the Chelsea Embankment. It was slight, a little affected 
in its abnegation of colour, and little likely to be noticed, but it 
had that truth to atmospheric effect which the painter subsequently- 
developed, and a certain quality of style difficult to describe, but 
probably due to the study of the older schools of landscape. For 
years after this Mr. Lawson exhibited at the Academy, having his 
work almost invariably hung where it could not be seen, or rejected 
altogether. And it was not till Sir Coutts Lindsay gave it the 
place of honour at the Grosvenor Gallery^ that most people even 
knew of the existence of this painter. It is a grave reproach to 
the Academy hanging committees and councils of selection, that they 
should have shown either such ignorance or such indifference as 
was betokened by this neglect. And it does not make their action the 
more tolerable that in after years they hung Mr. Lawson's pictures 
upon the line, and just before he died elected him an Associate. 

The two most popular landscapes of this year were Sir JoKn 
Millais' Flowing to the River and Flowing to the Sea. Both, as the 
name denotes, river scenes, both large in size and realistic in treat- 
ment ; both full of skilful painting and carefully-studied detail, and 
both unsatisfactory to the painter's most sincere admirers. The 
preceding year had brought the Chill October (practically the painter's 
first landscape) and seen its marvellous success. Sir John Millais 
was undoubtedly then, as he is probably still, the most generally 
popular painter in England, and the public delight in his taking a 
new departure and making such a success therein, was unmistakable. 
I confess that, after seeing the Chill October several times during 
the dozen years that have elapsed since its exhibition, I think its 
merits were overrated. It does not seem to possess the merits 
of a great landscape, but to be simply a piece of keen observation of 
Nature, presented with great clearness. As a picture the composition 
is somewhat insipid. One is tempted to turn away and ask why this 
dull sky, and cold water, and shivering reeds should have been painted 
so well. 

And this feeling is equally inevitable with the two succeeding 
pictures. They do not miss their point, but they have none — they 
offend our sense of selection, and style, and all that we are accus- 
tomed to find in great landscape work, and they do not give us 
in exchange even the pre-Raphaelite beauty of each individual stick 
or stone, wave, bough, or cloud. A coarse realism pervades them, 
realism which has little relation to fondness for the thing painted, and 
which is only redeemed from worthlessness by its technical excellence.^ 

1 About four years ago. 

^ For those who remember how lovingly Mr. Millais painted inanimate nature in such 
pictures as the Ophelia, The Huguenot, and the Autumn Leaves, will not confound these later 
landscapes with true pre-Raphaelite work. ■ 

308 



The truth is a very simple one, albeit most visitors to the Academy 
did not and do not see it. A landscape is not to be painted casually 
by a figure -painter, just because he can reproduce a little bit of 
Nature. It takes more than that to make a great landscape picture. 
There are only two kinds of great landscapes; the one depends 
on the painter's power of animating a scene with some human 
interest or emotion, till he makes it akin to humanity, and the 
other depends on the painter's power of selection and composition ; 
on the power, that is, of so arranging his subject as to create in 
the mind of the beholder an impression of its sufficient beauty, 
dignity, and interest. Broadly speaking these may be called the 
modern and ancient schools, and within their boundaries falls all 
really great landscape painting. But Sir John Millais' art has no 
kinship with either of these, he is essentially a figure-painter, and 
there could be no more terribly significant sign of the utter absence 
of all critical perception in English art judgment, than that his 
landscapes should have been hailed with such joyous acclamation. 
That there are beautiful bits of work in them, and that they have 
considerable superficial truth to nature may be readily conceded, 
but they have little meaning, dignity, or interest ; they show no 
perception of the finer beauties of nature, and they must be considered 
simply as studies of everyday natural effect. As such they are far 
inferior to the work of Mr. Brett, of whose painting more anon.^ 

In the same exhibition Millais had some fine portraits, including 
the celebrated picture of the three Miss Armstrongs, entitled, 
Hearts are Trumps, but the best portrait in the Academy was Mr. 
Calderon, by Mr. Watts. It was a life.-size head, painted on a plain 
and very dark background, without accessories of any kind. Mr. 
Calderon's face, with its traces of Spanish- and Jewish origin, its 
handsome features, and its somewhat stern expression, formed doubt- 
less a splendid subject, and one peculiarly suitable to Mr. Watts' 
tastes, but even so the portrait is a very remarkable one, full of con- 
centrated power and dignity, and singularly successful in its beauty 
of colour. The character of Mr. Watts' finest portraits is, indeed, 
unrivalled in contemporary art ; they have no relations nearer than 
Reynolds. In some ways they are finer even than Reynolds' ; for they 
go deeper into the character of their sitters. In England there are 
at present only these three first-rate portrait painters, Watts, Millais, 
and HoU,^ and each has a method of his own. Watts ponders his 
sitter, and tries to express him fully, sometimes with too great an 

1 I should dearly like to alter this last sentence. It is most entirely mistaken ; but this 
paper is inserted to show what I thought in 1883 and not in 1892. So it must stand. 

^ I fear that all readers of this pamphlet will be unanimous in thinking that I should have 
included " Ouless" in this list, but it has always seemed to me that his work, earnest, solid, 
and life-like as it is, lacks all essentially fine artistic qualities. A portrait painter who is 
not sympathetic is an impossibility, and, to my mind, Mr. Ouless' work is absolutely defi- 
cient in this quality. 



indifference to superficial characteristics. Millais gives us a splendid 
outside splendidly painted; keenly observed glittering with life, 
vigour, and brilliancy. HoU drives his sitter into some corner, and 
then flashes a dark lantern upon him, and paints him sternly, 
strongly, and, if I may use the expression, implacably. All are fine 
workmen — Millais is incomparably the finest — but only one is a great 
portrait painter ; it is only in Mr. Watts' likenesses that we find that 
depth of insight which renders portraiture interesting, even when 
the name of sitter and artist have alike faded. There was another 
portrait here which must be noticed, as it represented the only work 
of the artist which was exhibited at the Royal Academy. This was 
the likeness of Mrs. Whistler by her son. It was called an arrange- 
ment in grey and black, and it excited considerable attention at the 
time by the vigour and the peculiarities of its method. Mr. Whistler 
has since then become a tolerably well-known figure in artistic 
circles, and his works have found a home in the Grosvenor Gallery, 
where their merits can be adequately appreciated. I was unwilling 
at this time, for private reasons, to express any critical opinions upon 
Mr. Whistler's work. I have since ceased to feel that his numerous 
personal attacks upon me in the World form any reason for silence, 
and I therefore may insert here that when I saw this portrait again 
some years later, I considered it of great beauty and originality. 

There was little else in this exhibition which calls for special 
notice. Sir Frederick (then Mr.) Leighton had no important work, 
Sir Edwin Landseer was showing signs of age and failing power. 
Mr. Briton Riviere's Daniel, though well drawn and dignified, was 
wanting in life, and the figure of the prophet was tame, and the 
whole picture far inferior to the Circe, to which it was a companion. 
Mr. Poole's diploma work was hardly a favourable specimen of his 
imaginative graceful art, and Mr. Marks' Waiting for the Proces- 
sion less successfully humorous than usual. Messrs. Redgrave, 
Pickersgill, Horsley, Cope, Hart, and Charles Landseer were 
neither better nor worse than usual, and Messrs. Faed and Nicol 
painted their peasants, sad or merry, in their wonted manner. Mr. 
Alfred Hunt, Mr. Brett, Mr. Peter Graham, were all painting good 
landscapes or seascapes, and Mr. H. Moore was painting the sea 
itself, with increasing power, but a dulness of colouring which took 
away much of the beauty of his work. Mr. Albert Moore, who had 
exhibited two of the most exquisite of his designs the preceding year, 
had nothing in the exhibition, and Mr. Poynter had the Perseus and 
Andromeda, one of the four large pictures painted for the Earl of 
Wharncliffe's billiard -room. On the whole, the exhibition was a 
representative one, but had only two pictures that deserved to be 
called memorable — The Harvest Moon, and the Harbour of Refuge} 

* And perhaps Frank HoU's I am the Resurrection and the Life. — 1893. 

310 



y Q ^ ^ The most notable event of this year's exhibition was 
A O / ^ the first of those seashore compositions by Mr. Brett, 
' ^ which subsequently became one of the yearly features 
of the Academy. Having been one of those who vainly urged the 
right of Mr. Brett to academic honours for years before the 
Academy tardily elected him an associate, I may perhaps be par- 
doned for pointing out that this artist has since produced no work of 
finer quality than this picture of wave, and sand, and seaweed 
covered rock which he called Amongst the Boulders} If, as seems 
to be the case, the present doctrine of the Academy is that land- 
scape art is to be no more than a realistic copy of Nature, here was a 
picture to which the highest honour was due on the spot ; for, in 
truth, realism pure and simple could go no farther. After ten years' 
interval the painting of rock, and sand, and water herein, remains in 
my memory as clearly as when first noticed, and I seem still to see 
the bright sunshine, the blue waves, and the glistening of the sand 
round the half-buried rocks. 

Perhaps an exception to the doctrine of landscape painting laid 
down in the last chapter may be made in favour of those who can 
light up our walls with sunshine such as Mr. Brett's ; for there lurks 
within it a joy of its own which almost dispenses with other mean- 
ing. However, we may note that Mr. Brett went on painting and 
exhibiting analogous works to this year by year, and was elected a 
member of the Academy about eight years subsequently. 

Mr. Leslie's Fountain — some girls in classical draperies grouped 
round an ancient fountain, with a background of leaves very care- 
fully painted — was another of the pleasant pictures of the year, but 
one in which the painter's peculiarly delicate powers scarcely showed 
to advantage ; for Mr. Leslie has little in common with Greek art, 
except the simplicity and directness of his intention, and these are 
best seen in his painting of national subjects. The School Re- 
visited, which he sent two years later, shows him at his best, giving 
a simple grace of his own to a commonplace, almost trivial, 
incident, and finding a way to make youth and innocence beautiful, 
without endowing them with artificial beauty or sweetness. 

His work is an anachronism truly, and smacks of our forefathers, 
and knows nothing of board schools and electric telegraphs, being 
indeed almost too exclusive in purity of atmosphere. But the artist 
shows Englishwomen and children such as we like to fancy they may 
have been in the days when George the Third was king. 

It was this year that Sir Frederick Leighton exhibited the small 
1 And since 1883 none so good. — 1892. 



coloured oil sketch for the fresco of the Industrial Arts of Peace in 
the South Kensington Museum. The design was fine, though it 
showed traces of that German influence which occasionally appears 
in the President's work. There was a companion sketch to this of 
the Industrial Arts of War, the fresco of which has been lately 
finished.^ Not at all inspired work, but refined, cultivated, and skilful 
in the highest degree. 

Look for a contrast to this at Sir John Millais' young lady picking 
the Newlaid Eggs out of the nest — one of the sweetest, freshest, and 
prettiest of all his girl pictures — and one sees in a moment the 
difference between a man who is born, and a man who has learnt, 
to paint. Here we have Sir John Millais at his best, as in 
the same gallery we have him, perhaps, at his worst in the over- 
dressed, over-laboured, and over-coloured likeness of Mrs. Bischoff- 
sheim. Mr. A. Moore sent this year a largish picture (badly hung, 
if I remember right), called Follow my Leader — a bevy of girls in 
the thinnest classical draperies, playing at the old-fashioned game, 
amongst grey tree trunks in a daisied meadow. 

This is, perhaps, scarcely to be thought of as an oil painting, so 
deficient is it in depth and luminosity^ of colour, so slight is its 
texture, so little of solidity does it possess ; but regarded as a deco- 
rative panel the composition bears comparison with anything of its 
kind. For the painting is absolutely right in apparent ease of 
execution, freedom and grace of movement, lovely lines combined 
with the greatest and apparently the most unconscious science, 
simplicity of effect, and in the general air of unrestrained enjoyment 
which pervades the whole. A pleasant picture, pleasantly painted, 
with a thoroughly Greek feeling in the girls' easy movement of body 
and limb, their happy unconsciousness of aught but the joy of living, 
while faces are fair, and skies blue. I have said that some minor 
things in art were being now done better than they ever had been 
done before. One of these is the painting of thin draperies by Mr. 
Albert Moore. To the best of my belief no painter, past or present, 
has grasped the beauty and the character of such robes with any- 
thing like the success which this artist habitually attains. Practi- 
cally, he has given his life to this subject, and he has succeeded in 
making it his own. 

* This is in a lunette in one. of the Galleries of South Kensington Museum ; the other will 
face it, but it is not yet begun. There is too great a preponderance of purple and white in 
the finished painting for the work to be thoroughly successful, and apparently the President 
has found himself somewhat cramped by the medium employed (Gambler Parry's), but 
both designs are remarkable for their splendid figure drawing and for considerable beauty 
of line. 

2 I dishke using this word, which is so continually in the mouths of the newspaper critics, 
but I know no other which will express without paraphrase that quality, as of a cut -open 
precious stone, which all really great colour really possesses. Flat tints are one thing, 
colour another. 

312 



Mr. Marks comes naturally after Mr. Albert Moore, if only because 
of the utter contrast — as perfect a one as could be conceived between 
two painters, both of whom work more for a decorative than any 
other purpose.^ Both are fine craftsmen, and there all similarity 
ends. Mr. Marks' painting (take The Ornithologist, The Page of 
Rabelais, or any other of his humorous works, as an example) is solid, 
good work, very unobtrusive in its method, and perhaps a little flat 
and monotonous in its execution. And if the painting is skilful and 
industrious throughout, so is the drawing in a somewhat rigid 
mechanical manner. The subjects of his picture are originally treated, 
and their points are struck clearly and sharply. A burgess or a 
serving-maid by Mr. Marks is just a little different to all other 
burgesses or serving -maids. But in all essentials of art, as Mr. 
Moore sees art, these works are wanting. For beauty of any kind 
is absolutely unthought of within their limits. Strange, quaint, 
humorous, satirical and amusing, Mr. Marks is frequently ; interesting 
always — beautiful never. It is work which is far too good for its 
motive, its attraction would be equally great in a woodcut to a 
weekly paper — it is, in a word, wasted art — the art of the gargoyle 
out of its niche, useless and fruitless. 

The miserable state of artistic ignorance amongst our cultivated 
classes may be gauged by the fact that this modern form of Gothic 
humour is what is supposed to be most suitable for decorative 
purposes, and that the public, in fact, have probably employed this 
artist to paint more friezes, and make more designs for glass and 
decorative panels, than any painter in England. The truth being, 
that of all conceivable styles of painting in the world, this is essentially 
the least decorative. I cannot stop here to discuss the subject, but 
any one who cares to think of what qualities are desirable in deco- 
rative work, will find that those are exactly the qualities which are 
lacking in this style of art. And in speaking of the Academy, and 
estimating its effect for good or evil upon English art, it is well to 
remember this instance : that the Academicians select to form one of 
their body, the Gothic painter, and despise the Greek ; that is to say, 
they, being artists, deliberately prefer the art which is based upon 
grotesquerie,^ to that which is based upon beauty. As I shall not 
have occasion to mention Mr. Marks' painting again, it is desirable 
to note here that his most serious, and, on the whole, most admirable 
picture, was the one entitled St. Francis preaching to the Birds, 
exhibited previously to the years of which I am writing, and 
after this the Capital and Labour (1874), which showed the 

^ This is hardly an accurate expression. Mr. Marks has, probably, done more work of a 
decorative than any other character, but his oil paintings in the Academy are decorative only 
in a secondary degree. Their main motive is not to make a space beautiful, but to tell a 
story amusingly. 

^ I don't know whether there is such a word as this, but if not there ought to be. 

2 S 313 



humorous side of a dispute between a mediaeval employer and 
his workmen. 

A word or two must be said here about Mr. H. W. B. Davis — a 
peculiarly industrious and clever workman — who was elected an 
Associate in this year. His pictures were always carefully composed 
and painted, full of pleasant effects of cloud and sunshine, and 
generally made up of green trees, and grass, and a few rough-coated 
cattle. Cows and oxen he drew especially well ; and it was probably 
to this that he owed his election ; for he was always more of an 
animal painter than a genuine landscapist. The peculiarity about his 
early painting was its excessive want of geniality — if I may use such 
a word. His pictures were like a schoolmaster's joke, irreproachable, 
but a trifle heavy. Partly his colouring was responsible for this 
impression, but probably it was mainly due to a somewhat precise 
habit of mind, which calculated, or seemed to calculate, too nicely all 
its pictorial effects. One felt before his pictures that it was ungrate- 
ful not to like them better, when one admired them so much. Since 
his election, Mr. Davis has improved greatly, and may now be 
considered the first of our cattle painters ; but something of the old 
unsympathetic quality still lingers, and he seems never to have quite 
made up his mind as to what he seeks in Art. 

The strength of this year's collection did not lie in the figure 
pictures, but in the general high quality of the land and seascapes. 
The Hook's, the Brett's, the Henry Moore's, the Alfred Hunt's, the 
Davis', and the Leader's were all fine and numerous, and made up 
the average of what would otherwise have been a very indifferent 
exhibition. The two vacancies in the list of Associates, left by the 
death of Mason, and the promotion of Mr. Dobson, were filled by 
Messrs. Davis and Hodgson, of whom the latter was a good 
draughtsman and a careful, somewhat old-fashioned painter, chiefly ot 
domestic incident in Eastern life. He is a clever, somewhat dull 
artist, addicted to semi-farcical subjects, but treating them with a 
heavy hand, and one who has since scarcely justified his election. 
There was, however, at this time, and for some years subsequently, 
a great bias in the Academic mind towards domestic painters of 
an absolutely colourless and unobjectionable character, and Mr. 
Hodgson's pictures had considerable merit of a technical kind. 

J Q — ^ 'Seventy-four was an eventful year at the Academy, 

1 O Z^- ^^ °"'y because it comprised Mr. Alma - Tadema's 

/I Picture Gallery, Mr. Millais' North -West Passage, 

Scotch Firs, and Winter Fuel, Mr. Fildes' Casuals, and Miss 

Thompson's Roll Call The last of these was certainly in popular 

estimation the picture of the year. Fortunately it is too well known 

314 




■fl 

O 



to need description. How much the intrinsic merit of the picture 
had to do with success, would be hard to say, but certainly 
in a snobbish land like ours, no amount of intrinsic merit would 
have produced half the excitement about a work of art that the few 
words of the Prince of Wales produced about this picture. Now that 
that excitement has faded, I may perhaps be allowed to say, without 
failing in courtesy, that it appears to have been greatly overstrained. 
The picture was a cleverly conceived, and carefully painted one, of a 
sentimental type. It was remarkable for resolute adherence to truth 
in so far as the artist could discover or imagine what the truth had 
been, but had no great qualities of colour or design,^ and touched no 
feeling other than a sentimental one. The subject, which was bound 
to attract sympathy from every Englishman, was represented in 
at once a popular and possible way. Its sentiment was contained 
in the facts. For power it could not compare with the picture of 
Quatre Bras, which the same lady painted the next year, and in 
which, taking a subject of infinitely greater difificulty, she succeeded 
even more strikingly than before. 

Mr. Tadema's Picture Gallery is one of his largest, if not his best 
paintings, and represents the interior of a Roman picture-house, with 
a connoisseur showing the works to his friends. In execution 
inferior to none of his later pictures, and in realisation of the scene 
scarcely to be surpassed. How far the skill of the execution, 
and the accuracy of the research which are here displayed, atone for 
the artistic purposelessness, is a difficult question. There is some- 
thing essentially futile in the endeavour to render with elaborate 
realistic detail the minutiae of ancient life — the labour, even if 
successful, must be so infinitely out of proportion to the worth of 
the result.^ What is gained after all by this marvellous painting of 
objects collected, invented, or discovered by the research of the 
artist ? As I sit here writing in the Forum, at the foot of all that 
is left of the Temple of Saturn, it seems as if the chipped bits of 
drapery round me everywhere, are worth all the details of Mr. 
Tadema put together, and that they tell more truth about Rome 
than could ever be got out of his work. However, this is no place 
to argue such a subject, and if I do not give greater space to this 
artist it is because he is not an English painter in any right sense 
of the word. 

Mr. Millais' North-West Passage and his two landscapes of this 
year, show almost the last trace of his early pre-Raphaelite proclivities. 

* In fact, the composition was singularly ugly. Nor had the artist any real knowledge of 
what she painted. This picture was sentimentally true, but had not the unmistakable look 
of having been done from nature. 

* From an art point of view such pictures have only great value if they are to be considered 
as pictorial school-books, but to this Mr. Tadema would hardly consent. 



Neither of the landscapes has quite the old directness or charm, 
but there are portions which remind one of the painter of the 
Ophelia and the Vale of Rest. In spite of a little dressed-up look 
and a suspicion of theatrical pose, the picture of the old sailor showing 
the track of his ship on the chart to the girl who kneels by his side, 
is a beautiful one, tenderly thought out and strongly painted. It may 
be said to form the last of that series of subject pictures which built 
up the painter's reputation.^ The Scotch Firs and the Winter Fuel 
are also remarkable for the minuteness of their execution, and for bits 
of colour put on to bark, bough, and foliage, with something of the 
frankness of earlier times. Indeed, Mr. Millais never had such a 
triumphant exhibition as that of this year. From this point he began 
to decline — to decline at any rate in the fascination of his work, for 
his technical skill is, when he chooses to exert it, as great as ever. 

There were two idyllic pictures of modern life in that exhibition 
which deserve a word of mention, though little notice of them was 
taken at the time. These were Le Chaudronnier, by M. Alphonse 
Legros,^ and Phyllis on the New-mown Hay, by Mr. Robert Macbeth. 
No two pictures could be more dissimilar in their representation of 
rural life. The Frenchman's is cold, grey, gloomy, and almost cruel 
in its unsparing truth. The Englishman's is cheerful, pretty, and 
bright, and full of pleasant suggestions of waning sunlight and quiet 
enjoyment. One is the life of the poor as Millet, the other as Walker, 
painted it. Both were fine, Le Chaudronnier strong in its truth and 
dignity of treatment, Phyllis strong in its resolute adherence to the 
sunny side of youth and nature, and in its frankness of conception. 
Mr. Macbeth's Phyllis is only a country lass after all, but she is 
bonnie and young, and has that largeness of mould to which Mr. 
Macbeth has gradually accustomed the visitor to the Academy. I 
remember when the critics grumbled hugely at the proportions of his 
peasants, and objected to their strong arms and thick ankles ; but all 
that is over now that he can write the magic initial after his name.^ 
M. Legros is a painter who may be said to be exceptionally unfor- 
tunate. He can do certain things well, but he cannot render anything 
pleasant, and even the good qualities of his art are apt to be stern 
and unbending. He is in some ways a magnificent draughtsman, 
but it is in a hard, severe style — such as is scarcely appreciated out 
of France — and he has little sympathy with any but the more desolate 
aspects of Nature. The finest works he has produced here have been 
his etchings, one of which, a supremely desolate one, entitled La Mort 
dun Vagabond, is almost terrible in its tragedy. As a remembrance 

1 For I omit the Crown of Love exhibited subsequently, that love story in which, as Mr 
Ruskin tersely said, the lady had a head without a body and the gentleman a body without a 
head. 

2 Since Slade Professor at University College, London. 
^ He was elected Associate three months ago. 

316 



that there are pleasant things in the world, Mr. Albert Moore's Shells, 
a damsel wandering along the seashore with wind-blown hair and 
garments, came as a good antitype to M. Legros, and Mr. Marks' 
Page of Rabelais was also welcome. Perhaps this last is the most 
perfect of all Mr. Marks' smaller pictures. Mr. Watts' portrait of 
Martineau, Mr. ^^XX\€s Juliet and Friar Lawrence, and Mr. Orchard- 
son's Ophelia and Hamlet and the King, and Mr. Poynter's Rhodope, 
were all in this exhibition, which was, on the whole, an unusually 
interesting one. 

But most famous of all was the Casual Ward, by Mr. Luke Fildes, 
talked of within a month all over England as The Casuals. This 
picture of the squalid crowd waiting at the workhouse door is too 
well known to need description, but it is worth while to point out 
that its power resided entirely in its appeal to a vital fact of life. Mr. 
Fildes is a good, not a great painter, but he here hit upon a subject 
which is perhaps the most significant of all subjects for Englishmen 
at the present time. He painted it with absolute truth, and a con- 
siderable amount of dramatic insight, and his success was perfectly 
genuine and unmistakable. 

Q This was probably the best exhibition of the decade, 

T Q 'T ^ not only as representative of the Academicians and 
/ O Associates, but in having several pictures of worth by 
outside artists. The Babylonian Marriage Market, by Mr. Long ; 
The Last Muster, by Mr. Herkomer ; The Bearers of the Burden, 
by Mr. Boughton ; The Spires and Steeples of the Channel Islands, 
by Mr. Brett ; The Quatre Bras, by Miss Thompson ; and The 
Charge of Cuirassiers at Waterloo, by M. Philippoteau, were all 
paintings of indisputable merit, and might well remain to this day 
as first-rate examples of their respective artists ; whilst within the 
Academic circle there were to be found, the finest portrait Sir John 
Millais ever painted (Miss Eveleen Tennant) ; The Slinger of Sir 
Frederick Leighton ; the grand design dedicated To all the Churches, 
of Mr. Watts ; The School Re-visited of Mr. Leslie ; the Rachel 
of Mr. Goodall, and The Samphire Gatherer oi Mr. Hook; while the 
sculpture gallery possessed what, if we may trust Mr. Ruskin, was 
the most precious work of the exhibition, the life-size statue of Carlyle, 
by Mr. Boehm. 

And first, of the four painters who have since been elected Associates, 
and who probably owe their election in no small measure to the pictures 
sent to this exhibition. Mr. Herkomer's Last Muster was a large oil 
painting, the design for which had previously appeared as a double- 
page illustration to the Graphic, as an illustrator to which paper the 
artist was at this period chiefly known. It was a study of Chelsea 
pensioners attending service in their chapel. It was hardly to be 

1^1 



regarded as an oil painting in the sense in vfhich. painting is correctly 
spoken of, but was a piece of strong, unaffected, and direct work 
applied to a worthy subject. Amongst much sham and sickly senti- 
ment the composition stood out in sincerity, and showed a certain 
manly sympathy with its subject, neither overstrained nor sentimental. 
In fact, to use an artistic phrase, this was a big thing not concocted in 
the studio. Since then Mr. Herkomer has risen rapidly in reputation, 
but he has done no better work, and little which is as good. He has 
always been far too busy to learn to paint, and except that his pene- 
tration into character is so keen, and his industry so untiring, his 
work would almost warrant the name of insolent. The huge land- 
scapes, for instance, which he exhibits at the Academy or the Grosvenor 
are scarcely more than dexterous scene painting. 

Mr. Long's Babylonian Marriage Market was a work in which the 
merit was of a totally different kind to that of the last-mentioned 
picture. This showed great industry, and a power of combining the 
various results of untiring research into a consistent whole. The 
subject was a happy one as far as popularity goes, admitting of the 
introduction of many gradations of womanly beauty, and with an 
amount of dramatic interest rare in these elaborate reproductions of 
ancient life. The picture had, however, the defects which are ap- 
parent in all Mr. Long's work, a want of freshness and ease, and a 
certain lack of artistic feeling. Despite the good painting and the 
composition it bore the same relation to fine art, that Southey's epics 
do to fine poetry. In fact multiplicity of detail is not fine art, though 
the fact is apt to be overlooked in paintings which take us back four 
thousand years or so, and realise for us all the details of ancient life. 

Great paintings are not alone skilful handling of the brush and 
pencil, and introduction of suitable surroundings. For a great picture 
must either tell us old things in a newer and more perfect way, or 
must tell us new things of which we feel the beauty and the truth. 
The great artist either sees more deeply or more widely than the rest 
of us. But this is what Mr. Long does not do : his art is all on the 
surface, a thing of shreds and patches. What matter that they 
are cut from ancient and precious tissues. To see what he lacks, 
we must compare his paintings with similar compositions by M. 
Gerome. There is no unity, no spontaneity, no artistic fire about his 
work, like there is in that pf the great French artist. And it is strange 
to note that Gdrome, whose manner is probably more cold and less 
sympathetic than that of any living painter (except M. Legros), has 
the power of giving to his scenes of ancient days an amount of reality 
and meaning such as Mr. Long, with all his elaborate machinery, 
entirely lacks. The truth is that the one gives us the surface aspect 
of his subject, the other penetrates into its essence. Mr. Long's 

318 




SIR WILLIAM BOWMAN, OCULIST 

W. W. OULESS. R. A. 

From a photograph 



Assyrian maidens, or Christian converts, or Roman soldiers, are 
merely correctly dressed dummies, using appropriate gestures ; but 
M. G6rome's Arab, who sits by his dying horse in the desert, is a real 
character ; we feel that we know him and his grief and love, almost as 
we know an old friend. Let the English artist have all the merit to 
which he is entitled for his careful painting, his picturesque arrange- 
ment, his unquestionable ability of realising the superficial aspect of a 
dead civilisation, and the industry and accuracy with which he has 
collected and displayed his facts.^ But telling us many things is not 
equivalent to telling us much, and the picture's" merit does not depend 
upon the amount of its artistic patience and research. 

As usual, in artistic matters, the truth lies in an exactly opposite 
direction to the popular impression. The only excuse for these grim 
historical, semi-archseological works is, that the artist should feel that 
he must paint them, and should justify that feeling by showing in his 
work the effect of his prepossession. Then the ancient life lives 
again in the modern artist's sympathy, and through that sympathy 
affects all who see. This is, of course, the gift of genius, and we may 
sufficiently say of Mr. Long's work, that such a gift is the last one 
with which he could be credited. 

Miss Thompson's Quatre Bras has already been alluded to, and 
The Spires and Steeples of the Channel Islands by Mr. John Brett 
must pass with the remark, that the picture showed all the power of 
his brilliant realistic painting. Probably this was the finest pictorial 
rendering of sunshine which had ever been executed. A pity that 
Mr. Brett's sunshine has less meaning than many another artist's 
shadow. He is like a millionaire in a desert, he does not know 
what to do with his gold. 

Mr. Boughton's Bearers of the Burden, touched with a less faithful 
and less sombre, but equally vivid, hand the chord which Mr. Fildes 
had sounded the year previously in The Casuals. Most of us will 
remember this incident of country life, with the vista of dull road, 
the scarce, loveless foliage of bush and tree, the brutal men, the 
draggled weary women. It might have been called The Nineteenth 
Century, and served as an illustration to Burke's lament. And it 
was and is terribly close to the truth of the relations of the sexes 
amongst the English poor. The fact makes one's heart bleed 
to believe, but being so, perhaps the sooner it is clearly under- 
stood the better. No Englishman probably would have painted this 
picture,^ and never (to my knowledge) did Mr. Boughton before or 

1 Perhaps the most vital defect of Mr. Long's work is a weak washy prettiness, which is 
more hopeless than any amount of crudity, or harshness of colour form. It's the preference 
of" Shanklin Chine" to Alp or Moorland." 

' Mr. Boughton is an American. 



since, do any similar work. Technically the painting was executed 
in a somewhat spotty ragged manner, and the colouring was more 
remarkable for the relative harmonies than the actual truth to nature. 
Altogether indeed, akin to French rather than English art, but 
certainly one of the most masterly pictures in the exhibition, and 
holding a little sermon told with an incisiveness which no one could 
mistake — this is what an American thought of English chivalry, and 
rightly. 

The return of a French soldier to his home, by Mr. Marcus Stone, 
called Sain et Sauf, must be just mentioned here for the strong and 
careful painting, and for the honesty of purpose. Mr. Stone is always 
a little over-dramatic perhaps, but he is one of those artists who put 
all their power of painting into their work, and who rarely miss the 
point at which they aim. Of late years he has dwelt (pictorially 
speaking) in a shady garden, in the green depths of which he places, 
now a graceful woman, now a gouty squire, now an amorous sports- 
man, and his art has become trivial and somewhat weak. But he is 
nevertheless one of the Academy's most genuine artists ; he touches 
his subject with a delicate vivacity which is all his own, and he has 
a rare sense of womanly grace and beauty.^ 

About no picture was there more diversity of opinion than Sir 
Frederick Leighton's Slinger, an Egyptian lad shying stones at 
sparrows, according to the unkind description of the author of 
Modern Painters. This magnificent life study hardly reached the 
point of a picture, and the figure seemed to overpower all the rest of 
the work, which looked like a theatrical background at a minor 
theatre, too small and thin for reality. Nevertheless, as a repre- 
sentation of a grand form in vigorous action, this was so fine that 
few things in the Academy could stand the comparison, and the 
study was remarkable as practically the last in which Sir Frederick 
painted manhood — in future years women and waxwork were to form 
his ideals. Mr. Watts' design of the Ascension of Christ, which he 
dedicated "to all the churches," stood, somewhat as an alien stands, 
amidst the fripperies of Mr. Frith, the aristocratic vacuities of Mr. 
Wells, and the cheap sentiment of many another Royal Academician. 
There were several points of beauty and meaning in the work, but 
such were scarcely to be appreciated here. The picture was literally 
crushed by the conventionality of the surroundings. 

_ Mr, Prinsep, soon to be an Associate, had his Minuet in this exhi- 
bition, and on the whole the picture was the best he had painted. 
The subject suited him, requiring little passion or power, and the 
atmosphere of perfume and powder, never wholly absent from his 

1 Something of the flavour of Paris is to be traced in his domestic episodes ; they are 
thoroughly elegant, even when they are not sincere. 

320 



work, was fully appropriate. His clear sharp painting showed to the 
best advantage in the silk stockings and satin skirts of the dancers ; 
and the slow mo'O'ement of the figures, and the old-fashioned grace of 
the dance, were caught to perfection. If a contrast to this were 
needed it might have been found in Miss Starr's Hardly Earned, a 
woman in a threadbare shawl, who has sat down wearily by her fire- 
side after a hard day's work. Each part of this picture was studied 
with a patience and elaboration beyond all praise, and the result 
could scarcely have been more successful. Of many hundreds of 
pictures, representing this and other similar well-worn subjects, I 
remember none which told its tale at once so simply, so powerfully, 
and so well. 

Of all the pictures in the exhibition this was the most pathetic, but 
it was nearly approached by Mr. Briton Riviere's War Time, a 
country scene in winter, with an old shepherd gazing desolately 
across a dreary waste of snowy fields and hedges. Mr. Riviere's 
touch upon the feelings is very keen at times, and in this work 
he was quite at his best, the horrible dreariness of the landscape, 
and the pose and expression of its single figure, told the story 
intended, better than a page of description. War Time^ was a 
genuine poem of daily life, which had this advantage over the pathos 
of the Last Muster and The Bearers of the Burden that the motive 
was drawn from a deeper well of feeling, and combined therewith a 
greater amount of natural beauty. 

Q jT In reference to this year's Academy exhibition the 
J Q y (_) late Lord Beaconsfield, with his usual happy audacity 
/ of statement, and contempt for the intelligence of his 

hearers, expatiated upon the originality and power of the English 
schools of painting, and told the delighted artists who clustered 
round him, that the eyes of Europe were fixed upon the walls of the 
Academy. Now, however, that the roses of that Academy banquet 
are dead, and the polished periods of the great earl have ceased to 
confuse our judgment, we must confess that this was as dull and 
uninteresting an exhibition as any one of the decade. 

There were two large pictures by Leighton and Poynter, and half 
a dozen interesting ones by little-known painters. There was one 
of Mr. H. W. B. Davis' best landscapes (sufiiciently criticised else- 
where), and a beautiful little Alma-Tadema, An Audience with 
Agrippa. Notable this last, amongst many other merits, for com- 
plete mastery over different conditions of light and shade, and for the 
excessive difficulties of perspective ^ which the artist had vanquished. 

* The poem illustrated by this picture was by Sidney Dobell. 

2 Owing to the point of view chosen. Mr. Tadema's perspective, however, is always 
carefully worked out for him by a draughtsman who performs the same duty for seyeral 
well-known artists. 

2 T 321 



Mr. Brett, in A certain Trout Stream, was ill at ease, away from 
his favourite ground — or rather water — and Mr. Moore's little work 
called Beads was exquisite in quality, but scarcely more important 
than a cameo. Mr. Briton Riviere, who turns to subtler modern 
instances a similar power to that which Landseer possessed of giving 
human meaning and emotion to animal life, had this year left his true 
region of pathos, and in his Stern Chase is always a Long Chase ^ 
burlesqued the power which he should have honoured. Herkomer 
had returned to his native Bavaria for a subject, and his At Death's 
Door distinctly failed to touch the chord of pathos at which it aimed. 
Millais' child picture, Forbidden Fruit, lacked much of his usual 
charm, and his portrait of Lord Lytton was one of the worst he ever 
painted. Mr. Orchardson's Flotsam and Jetsam, and Mr. Leslie's 
My Duty towards my Neighbour, were fair examples of their re- 
spective artists, but neither specially representative nor interesting, 
and Mr. Watts' three portraits were open to the same remark. A 
portrait by R. Herdman of Thomas Carlyle was finely and quietly 
painted, and Mr. Prinsep's Linen Gatherers, a companion picture to 
his Gleaners ^ of the preceding year, only missed its meaning by being 
too disdainful of the subject. These linen gatherers were neither 
work-women nor ladies, but something between the two. 

The great picture of the year both in size and importance was the 
Daphnephoria of Sir Frederick Leighton, a very large canvas repre- 
senting one of the ancient Grecian festivals in honour of Apollo. 
The composition was a purely decorative one, the subject being 
chosen for the opportunities afforded of introducing beautiful things, 
people, and scenery. The picture was, save in this respect, motive- 
less, and looked out of place in the gallery. There was a lack of 
concentration and meaning, or rather the meaning wanted concen- 
tration, and the long line of beautiful figures was uninteresting 
because aimless. We cannot fix the point of interest in a panorama. 
In some ways this painting marks an epoch in Sir Frederick 
Leighton's artistic life, for he has not since painted compositions of 
more than one or two figures. 

From this work to Mr. Poynter's Atalanta's Race the change was 
at first very great, but for once was little to the younger painter's 
disadvantage. Atalantds Race failed as a dramatic presentment of the 
subject, and was injured by that dulness (I had almost said ugliness) 
of colouring which affects Mr. Poynter's painting so frequently and 
so injuriously. Nevertheless this was a picture of considerable power, 

eat his'°rf '™^ °^ '^"'^^^ chasing a drake, who has caught a frog— and has not had time to 
2 The Gleaners should have been mentioned in 187S ; it was one of Mr. Prinsep's best 

322 



and showed long continued industry and study. No one could help 
seeing that the painter was striving after an exceptionally high ideal 
of art, and giving up much in the struggle ^ — there was little grace 
in the picture, no softness or splendour of colouring, and no beauty 
of drapery, but there was much grappling with difficult problems of 
muscular action, scientific drawing of arrested, and continuous move- 
ment, and there was a certain strong individuality about the whole 
painting, which gave it vigour and reality. This was the third (if we 
mistake not) of the pictures intended for Lord Wharncliffe's billiard- 
room, and certainly the best. 

Mr. P. R. Morris' Sailor's Wedding excited a good deal of com- 
ment, and very justly, for though in a poor style of art, the picture 
was clever and amusing, and represented a sailor and his bride, 
followed by their friends and bridesmaids, walking by the sea after the 
wedding ceremony. The composition was full of wind and spray, the 
bridegroom holding on his hat with one hand, while he grasped his 
wife with the other, and every one was being well blown about, and 
drenched with salt water. It was the kind of painting which, with 
substitution of French for English people, you might expect to see 
at the Salon, and in the manner of the misty execution resembled 
the work of the Beatix Arts rather than that of the Academy. Mr. 
Morris was two years after this elected an Associate, but he has since 
made no success at cill equal to that of this picture.* 

Mr. Andrew Gow's Relief of Ley den was of very different merit : 
one of the few genuine and valuable historical paintings in the 
Academy, though the historical portion was of the slightest, as the 
subject was treated mainly from the point of view of character and 
picturesque incident. The scene represented the quays of Leyden, 
when the vessels, laden with bread, were entering the harbour. 
Certainly Mr. Gow's most sympathetic, if not his finest, painting, 
carefully studied in all accessories, and full of good drawing and 
right expression. Not a great picture, for it lacked genius, and was 
too evidently painted without any strong emotion, but a bit of honest 
craftsmanship well bestowed, shirking no difficulty, and justifying its 
daring by success. A little picture by Mr. George Clausen, called 
High Mass in a Fishing Village on the Zuyder Zee^ gave promise of 
considerable powers in a then little known painter. Mr. Clausen has 
since become successful, but he has done no better work, and very 



1 Mr. Poynter's work, we need hardly say, is founded upon the style of Michelangelo, 
and in the endeavour to attain the dignity and force of his great original, the painter sacrifices 

elll clSC> 

2 Their First Communion, a scene at Dieppe, was probably the artist's most popular work 
next to this. A small replica of this last is, I am told, in the Grosvenor Gallery for the 
present year (1883), but I have not seen it. . 

3 Dutch people by a Dutch painter, a good reason for the picture's success ; the mterest 



and truth of feeling are manifest. 



little as good as this. At present he paints Haverstock Hill, and- 
Girls' Schools coming down its slopes, and such like subjects. 

In conclusion of this year's exhibition must be mentioned The 
Old Soldier of Mr. Orchardson. The Old Soldier was a good 
specimen of the painter's art, homeless, ragged, and lanned throughout. 
With nearly every defect of subject and method that a painting could 
have, this composition nevertheless possessed the indefinable charm 
which lurks somewhere in Mr. Orchardson 's pictures. Perhaps the 
truth is that of all English artists this is one of the least conventional 
and the most artistic. Philistinism never seems to have touched him : 
he paints how he pleases and what he pleases ; and as for the pro- 
prieties, why, they may all go — elsewhere. I only offer this as a 
possible explanation of the reason why his ragged, yellow, half-empty 
canvases have so much attraction. One other merit must be men- 
tioned, that he has, when he chooses to exert it, a very special faculty 
of delicate colouring. Some faint harrnonies of pink and yellow, 
greyish green and buff colour, he manages with a tact and chic which 
are quite French — not a colourist, but a wonderful master of tint.^ 
Mr. Macbeth's Lincolnshire Gang was one of the fine pictures of the 
year ; but I must only mention it, and Mr. Buckman's Tug of War 
(a clever piece of decoration this last), and pass to the year 1877. 

y Q ^ ^_ The right word for this year's exhibition was 
1 O / / respectable ; nice sentiment, pretty painting, small 
' / ideals, and large prices, would describe nine-tenths of 
the collection, and the absence of striking pictures was more 
noticeable. Nearly all the painters of whom I have spoken most 
in the preceding pages, Leighton, Watts, Poynter, Leslie, Marks, 
Alma-Tadema, Albert Moore, and Marcus Stone, send unimportant 
contributions, while M. Tissot, whose pictures are always among the 
events of the Academy, has deserted the exhibition, and Miss 
Thompson has wisely opened an exhibition of her pictures by 
themselves, where soldiers (in uniform) will be admitted free, and 
the ordinary public at the price of one shilling.^ 

As, with the exception of Mr. Watts' Dove, and Mr. Dicksee's 
Harmony, there were few pictures of great interest, it will be a good 
year to speak generally of the landscape art which was prevalent at 
this time. This may be divided roughly into three classes, as in the 
followmg list, though of course any such division can only be 
an approximately correct one, as several of the painters mentioned 
therem are upon the border-land, and might, with almost equal 
accuracy, be placed in one class as the other. 

1 Since then Mr. Orchardson has done some magnificent work. 
Permissible at the time when Miss Thompson's work received much bold advertisement 

324 



Academic Landscape {more or less conventional). — Leader, Vicat 
Cole, The Linnells, C. E. Johnson, Oakes, Redgrave ; and with 
Animals — Ansdell, Cooper, Davis, Birket Foster, 

Modem English Landscape {chiefly realistic). — Wook, Brett, 
Alfred Hunt, Henry Moore, Albert Goodwin, Aumonier. 

Scotch Naturalist Landscape. — Peter Graham, MacWhirter, Colin 
Hunter, Hamilton Macallum, Lockhart. 

I do not name these as necessarily the best of the school, but as 
fair representatives ; the list is not intended to be exhaustive, nor can 
it be said to be strictly accurate. Pages would be needed to define 
the exact sense in which each of these painters is conventional. 
Academic, or realistic, and the label I have affixed must only be con- 
sidered as a rough and ready generalisation, useful for purposes of 
description. None of this first class are really conventional in the 
sense that Poussin and Claude were so, but their style may be 
described as a half-naturalistic, half-conventional one, founded upon 
an inability to resist the influence of modern art, and yet hankering 
after the restrictions and dignities of the ancient methods. The 
necessity of formal composition, for instance, which I have alluded 
to above as characteristic of Claude, is accepted by all these painters, 
but they are unprepared to pay precisely the price which is necessary, 
to surrender, that is, the naturalism of modern art, and so they 
attempt to give something of the outside form of earlier work ; 
to balance their composition, to arrange their light and shade, etc, 
in a similar manner, and all the while to twist Nature into accordance 
with this. The proceeding is a half-hearted one, and the result is 
necessarily poor. The old landscape painters were not great 
because of what they rejected, but for what they gave ; they viewed 
Nature as a whole, in subordination to their traditions of dignity and 
meaning, and painted her in relation to men of like traditions ; their 
works were grandiose often, erroneous frequently, and limited 
always ; but they were never timid and never unmeaning. But a 
landscape which is constructed somewhat in their manner, and yet is 
informed with nothing of their spirit, must be always both feeble and 
contradictory. Feeble, because it was the spirit rather than the form, 
in which lay the power of these painters, and contradictory because 
the artist will profess to be ignorant of much that he must know, 
Mr, Vicat Cole, for instance, paints with infinite dexterity, and com- 
poses his picture with great care (so do Mr, Oakes and Mr, C, E, 
Johnson, so did Mr, Redgrave), but his pictures leave us cold and 
uninterested, for the simple reason that they have neither the 
dignity of the old school nor the truth of the new. If Nature is to be 
painted without any relation to man — as it was never painted by the 

325 



old masters — then by all means let it be done literally. Let us have 
our sturdy Brett, denying that relation and meaning are possible. 
That is the only excuse for such work. Why should a landscape be 
composed, except for a special purpose ? Why take away truth 
and simplicity if we are not going to add to meaning ? What 
is the defence for those compositions of Turner's which we are all 
agreed to admire, except that they do give the meaning, for which 
they sacrifice the truth ? And this is really the whole secret of com- 
position. He is a mere tyro in art who imagines composition to 
consist only or chiefly in the superior pleasantness of the arrange- 
ment of certain lines above others ; its chief faculty is to increase 
the enjoyment by adding to the strength, the meaning, or the clear- 
ness of the impression, which the painter wishes to convey — and if 
he has nothing to convey — What then ? 

These remarks apply to all the painters in the first class — they are 
working on wrong principles — they are doing clever but futile work. 
The only men living at this day who had done genuine landscapes, 
based upon the principles of ancient days, were the elder Linnell 
and Mr. Samuel Palmer. Both men were over seventy at this 
period, and their art had consequently been formed before the newer 
school came into existence.^ This is sheer plain truth, unpalatable as 
it may be to painters and their friends, that what used to be under- 
stood (and what, according to history, is properly meant) by land- 
scape art, is absolutely dead in England at the present day. We 
have men who can paint Nature — in bits. We have not a single 
man who can paint a great landscape picture. Had Mr. Cecil 
Lawson lived, he might, perhaps, have done so, had he ever settled 
his style, and made up his mind exactly what it was that he intended 
to do ; but when he died (last year) he was still swallowing formulce, 
as Kingsley has it, and with his death all hope disappeared. Linnell, 
for nearly half a century the best landscape painter at the Academy,^ 
died in the same year, and in the year before died Samuel Palmer. 

But if the Academic landscape fails us, what shall we say of the 
Scotch (so-called) naturalistic school .? Of all pictures of scenery 
exhibited at the Academy, this has been, for the last ten years, the 
most favoured by the authorities, and, speaking broadly, if a large 
landscape has been exhibited on the line during that period, it 
was in seven cases out of ten by a member of this school. 
Messrs. Graham and MacWhirter in landscape, and Messrs. Colin 
Hunter and Hamilton Macallum in sea and river landscape, have 
had their habitual places of honour, usque ad nauseum, so let us say 
a few words upon this special development of our national art. 

1 Mr. "Toots" would call it cheek. 

3 Never a member, though he was a candidate for about twenty years, after which he 
withdrew his name. 

326 



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I'ruiH III. 



E. iiLAJR I.Kli.ll 1 IJN 
id\ ill nmnDcliroinc in the aulhui's pusM^s^iion 



The first and chief peculiarity is size and confidence — the second 
characteristic triviality and haste. But allied witt these qualities, 
there are to be found in the works of this school, or at all events of 
the leading members, merits which partly redeem the work. To 
understand these we must bear in mind that most of the most earnest 
painting of Nature in the present day is either wearied, over-subrie, 
or morbid. The pre-Raphaelites, amongst much good, have done 
some harm to landscape art, and have this to answer for, that they 
have caused many painters either to despair of painting landscape at 
all, or have forced them into missing in their research those broad, 
simple aspects of Nature, which all know and all can appreciate. 
With characteristic keenness, the Scotchmen perceived that there was 
a great opening for those who would relieve the public mind from 
the oppression of these laboured, over-minute, almost over-faithful, 
paintings, which needed knowledge to. be understood and feeling to 
be appreciated, and so they chose their part. Ignorant of the tradi- 
tions of the great masters on the one hand, and contemptuous alike 
of the difficulties and the aspirations of the pre-Raphaelites on the 
other, they covered large spaces of canvas with such simple matters 
as a mass of mountain mist, or a flash of sunlight on the side of a 
green hill. Now and then a broken bough, a herd of rough-coated 
oxen, a flock of sea-birds, some stormy water, or a blasted pine-tree, 
was introduced to give emphasis to the composition, but the painting 
was chiefly representative of simple natural truths, and its relation was 
as distant from great landscape art on the one hand, as from great 
realistic art on the other. 

I am not denying either the skill or the power of these men. I 
am denying that their art is worthy to be called great in any way 
whatever. The truth is entirely of the superficial kind ; succeeding 
when at all successful, by ignoring all the finer qualities of form and 
colour, all the subtler eflects of sun and shadow, all the more refined 
and glorious facts of Nature. 

I must not, however, enlarge upon this topic, and will only de- 
scribe briefly the third class of landscapists. These are to be spoken 
of with, at once, reverence and pity. Reverence, because they 
are painfully, and with little applause and personal success, 
building up the foundations on which must rest the landscape 
art of the future; and pity, because that art will never be seen 
by them but as Moses saw the Promised Land from the top of 
Pisgah. The microscopic minuteness and brilliancy of Mr. Brett ; 
the no less wonderful delicacy and iridescent colour of Mr. Alfred 
Hunt; the gentle simple veracity of Mr. Aumonier; the vivid 
impressions of the Wyllies ; the delicate imagination and truth to 
atmospheric effect of Mr. Albert Goodwin,— all of these things are 

327 



precious in their way, and all of these are preparing the road for a 
new landscape art. But as yet these men are working, as it were, 
at the different parts of a pin, and in ignorance of their ultimate 
destination. Whatever this may be, theirs is the only vital painting 
of Nature in England at present — their mission, though humble, is 
neither fruitless nor insincere. 

It seemed better in a review like the present to speak thus gener- 
ally of this branch of art before giving especial mention to this or 
that picture. In all these classes many individual pictures are 
worthy of admiration, from the Scotch mountains of Mr. Graham, to 
the fairy voyages of Sinbad by Mr. Goodwin. Mr. Halswelle 
paints a long stretch of rolling clouds, with a truth of power and a 
consistency of series hitherto unknown, gives us sky landscapes, as 
an Irishman might say ; and the grey mystery of a stormy sea is 
shown us by Mr. Henry Moore for the first time in its full and 
dreary beauty. Calm waters, in sunshine and in shadow, have been 
drawn by Mr. Macallum and Mr. Aumonier to a point which is 
very near to perfection, and so throughout the list.^ A last word 
must be given to the veteran artist who has brightened twenty years 
of the Academy with his work, and never sent a single picture 
which did not breathe of English breezes, and glow with English 
health. To Mr. Hook belongs the supreme praise of having found 
beauty and truth in what lay nearest to his hand, and of having 
succeeded in creating a series of landscapes and seascapes, which 
are as national in their truth, as they are universal in their loveli- 
ness. Technically, too, this painter must rank at the head of all 
our landscape artists, though of late years his work has been some- 
what slighter and coarser than of old. Such pictures as the Luff 
Boy and The Trawlers glow with a loveliness of colour, which has 
scarcely a parallel in English painting, and are at once true in their 
feeling, worthy in their subject, and dignified in their conception and 
treatment. 

Amongst the younger artists the chief success of the year was 
won by one just emerged from studenthood, named Frank Dicksee 
— Harmony, so he called this scene of a lover and his mistress playing 
the organ, was remarkable both in a technical and a sentimental sense. 
The execution was careful, skilful, and patient in a high degree, and 
the quiet interest of the scene was exactly hit off. It was, to uSe 
an artist's phrase, a happy picture. Everything had gone right 
therein. The contrast of feeling especially, between the devotional 

' No one who reads this description of the landscape painters, will feel more keenly than 
the present writer its excessive imperfection, and my only excuse must be that I had to 
choose what I would leave out. 

328 



enthusiasm of the girl, and the very human passion of her lover, was 
rendered with great distinctness, if not great subtlety, and the 
success of the whole picture was as genuine as it was undoubted. 
Since^ then Mr. Dicksee has gone on steadily improving in his 
technique, till he may now be considered one of our most skilful 
painters.! A great artist he is not at present, despite what his 
admirers tell him, for his compositions are too cold, too mechanical 
in their perfection ; but his skill of hand is really marvellous, and 
should he ever discover that there is a third organ in a painter's 
composition besides hand and brain, he may do very great things. 
At present he only does v&xy praiseworthy ones.^ 

The Dove returning to the Ark, by Mr. Watts, formed perhaps 
the strongest possible contrast to the Harmony just mentioned. 
And yet this was a harmony too, of rainy sky and ruffled plumage, 
and troubled water. The least describable, and the most poetical 
picture ever hung upon the Academy walls. It was little appreci- 
ated at the time, but a few people cared for it very much, even then, 
and since it has been exhibited at the Grosvenor Gallery, the 
opinion of the few has become that of the general public. 

Contrast again with these faint harmonies of blue and grey the 
tour de force of Mr. Millais, called The Yeoman of the Guard, in 
which a scarlet uniform blazed into insignificance the poor mortal 
whose healthy, vacuous face loomed above its splendour. Or con- 
trast, with Mr. Watts' sad -tempered, thoughtful reverence, and 
hinted poetry, the matter-of-fact dextei'ity and prose with which Mr. 
Long painted his Egyptian Feast, and chose perhaps the most 
significant of all ancient customs, as a medium for showing off his 
acquaintance with the forms of Egyptian furniture. Or for a con- 
trast of a different kind, think of the romantic historical painting of 
Sir John Gilbert, and notice how his dressed-up, over-accentuated 
picture of Cardinal Wolsey at Leicester, almost vulgarised its really 
patriotic subject, and reduced the interest of the spectator to a mere 
question of champing steeds, flashing armour, and smoky torchlight. 

The succession of Sir Frederick Leighton to the post left absent 
by the death of Sir Francis Grant was the great event of this year's 
Academy. It inaugurated a new era of change, and an advance 
to a more liberal policy. It foreshadowed a greater tolerance for 
Continental forms of art, and, in fact, as liberal a policy as could 
be maintained under the circumstances. All of this has been fulfilled, 
and the Academy is in many respects, notably in its general interest, 
greatly improved. If English painting is not what it once was, or 

1 He was elected to the Academy rather more than a year ago. 

* This of course was written nearly six years ago. Since then Mr. Dicksee has shown 
conclusively that he will only do in the future the work which has rendered him popular 
in the past. His painting grows more Philistine, more respectable, and less interesting 
yearly. — 1892. 

2 U 329 



now might be, there is more of good foreign work to be seen at 
Burlington House, and traces of that influence can be seen in the 
painting of many of our artists. Sir Francis Grant was a sportsman 
and a kindly-hearted gentleman, rather than an artist ; Sir Frederick 
Leighton is a man of rare artistic talent, who has seen much of 
many forms of art, and acquired a tolerance for all. Artistically 
he is something like Mr. Brooke in Middlemarch, and we can fancy 
him saying to a young student, Ah, Titian now ; I went in a good 
deal for him at one time, and so on throughout the list. But he 
has a keen eye for merit of any kind, he is no less kind-hearted 
than his prototype, and with far more judgment has helped many 
a young artist who would otherwise have had but a bad time, and 
he makes, as people are almost tired of saying, an ideal President. 
Possibly a man whose genius was greater, and whose education had 
been less widely gathered, might have done something towards 
bringing into some accordance the different aims and practices of 
English artists at the present time, but short of this. Sir Frederick 
Leighton has done everything. And the very last election to the 
Academic ranks, that of Messrs. Macbeth and Gregory,^ was the 
most tolerant and liberal one which had ever taken place. 

The compositions which attracted most attention this year were 
the portraits of a Society -beauty (Mrs. Langtry), and the series 
of pictures by Mr. Frith, R.A., entitled The Road to Ruin. The 
former we need not criticise further than to say that they were three 
in number, of which Mr. Millais' was a fine graceful picture and 
a good likeness, Mr. Poynter's a very elaiborate and very dull piece 
of good painting, and Mr. Weigall's indifferent as a likeness, and 
poor as a work of art. 

But the series of The Road to Ruin demands attention as a 
good type of a species of art which has been for the last thirty 
or forty years very popular in England. These compositions pro- 
fessed to represent the career of a modern spendthrift, and were 
perhaps intended to rival the celebrated series of Hogarth. I have 
said nothing hitherto of Mr. Frith's art, for the same reason for 
which I have omitted (and shall omit) the names and works of many 
another Academician of the same school.^ Whatever their merits 
may be, and there is much careful thought and occasional good 
painting bestowed upon them, their shortcomings are too evident 
to need description, or to warrant interest. It seems inconceivable 
to many people that some of these painters should be deemed 
worthy of Academic honours, and I prefer to omit them altogether 

1 I have said nothing of Mr. Gregory's work in this paper, chiefly because none of his 
best paintings have appeared at the Academy. 

^ Again I do not mention the names for obvious reasons, but the diligent art-student will 
be at no loss to supply the omission ; it may be gathered from this paper, by what. I think 
the late Mr. Mill called The Method of Residues. H F . y "i4 ^ imns, 



from these notes, rather than spend time and patience in explaining 
defects which should be evident to every one who cares for art. 
If they give pleasure to the public, and it must be supposed that 
in some inscrutable way they must do so, or their pictures would 
not continue to be painted, so much the better for those artists ; 
and the sooner a critic or a painter arises to tell us what single 
great artistic merit is to be found in such work, the better for every 
one. But when, speaking generally, we see year after year a mass 
of pictures exhibited, which possess neither beauty of form, beauty 
of colour, nor beauty of meaning, when we find the subject of these 
pictures devoted to the most trivial of domestic incidents, or the most 
used-up specimens of domestic fiction, we are, I think, justified in 
assuming that,, until some explanation be given us of their merit, 
we may pass them by in silence. 

Mr. Frith, however, is a typical instance of a painter who has 
been immensely popular, and whose work must have some great 
attraction. The Road to Ruin shows us what that attraction is : 
it is the attraction of subject, carefully chosen and clearly expressed. 
Now to expression of a certain kind artistic capacity is only a 
hindrance. Advertisements, the trader will tell you, may be too 
artistic. And in some way Mr. Frith 's pictures may be considered 
as moral or social advertisements. They are, so to speak, printed 
in big type, for those who run to read, and those who run (round 
picture galleries) do read them easily. They occupy nearly the 
same relation to serious figure - painting, that the Scotch realists 
do to landscape art, i.e. that of broad elementary statements of 
facts. It would be wrong to say there is no art in them. There 
is great art in saying anything so clearly that the biggest fool in 
the world can understand it. But noX. fine art, that's another matter. 
And it is this which Mr. Frith has reduced to a science. If he 
paints the Derby Day it is a concentrated essence of everything 
which is connected in the popular mind with Epsom and racing. 
If he paints a Railway Station it is the typical railway station. 
Every dot is put upon every " i " ; no imagination is necessary to 
complete the picture. Given this, given also great dexterity in 
the marshalling of his facts and figures, and an utter absence of 
any predilection for one kind of incident over another, and the 
reason for his popularity is evident at once. Add to this the fact 
that the painter never offends by any undue lack of conventionality, 
but gratifies in all his work that cautious avoidance of disagreeable 
truth, and love of observance and propriety, which is characteristic of 
the middle-class Englishman. This was the secret of the success of 
The Road to Ruin, round which an excited mob struggled day after 
day, under the guardianship of two friendly policemen. A young 
gentleman^ playing cards in his rooms in college — A young gentleman 

^ Singularly unlike what undergraduates used to be in my time. 



in a white greatcoat, betting at Ascot — A young gentleman being 
arrested for debt — A young gentleman writing for the papers while 
his wife nurses the baby — and, finally, A young gentleman blowing out 
his brains in a garret, — such were the incidents of The Road to Ruin. 
All honour to Mr. Frith for the clearness with which he preached 
this little sermon. The advertisement was as clear as one of the 
placards of the Salvation Army; but the place for such homilies 
is not on the walls of the Academy. All these fashionable frock- 
coats and gloves and white ties, and polished boots and dressing- 
gowns ; all these details of rosewood furniture, green table-cloths, 
and cut-glass decanters ; all this stage business of life, in spasms 
of gambling, scribbling, and suicide — this is not fine art, not even 
nature. It is simply cheap shoddy, manufactured sentiment — 
sentiment of the scene -shifter and the costumier — and the sooner 
it is estimated at its proper value the better. 

It is not as if the evil stopped at the waste of power of the clever 
man who gives us this rubbish, it affects every one whom his ability 
forces to take an interest in such work ; all appreciation of true art 
becomes impossible to folks who are accustomed to futilities. The 
painting bears as much relation to art, as the abuse of a Society 
paper does to literature, and is about as valuable, and has, moreover, 
this in common, that those who become accustomed to its personalities 
care little for any other species of information. I have mentioned 
Mr. Frith's name in connection with- it, and omitted others, because 
he is a man of such great ability that it renders the mistake of his 
painting the more pitiable.^ Had he turned his strong powers of 
delineating fact to painting the real, instead of the sham, life which 
he saw round him ; he might perhaps have been another and a more 
genial Hogarth, but, as it is, he has never descended below the 
superficial aspects of his facts, and has not given us a single picture 
in which the sentiment, the passion, or the feeling, has not been 
purely conventional. 

Mr. Eyre Crowe was elected an Associate in this year, and sent a 
fair specimen of his precise, hard, and unpleasant-coloured painting. 
This was, to the public, one of the inscrutable elections in which the 
Academy used so frequently to indulge, for whatever may be thought 
of Mr. Crowe's merits by his admirers, they have certainly never 
entitled him to Academic rank. 

Mr. Armitage sent a very important work to this exhibition : 
a composition of many figures, entitled Serf Emancipation. It 
represented a Saxon noble giving freedom to his slaves on his death- 
bed. It was as good an example of this painter's work as could be 

1 And besides that, because he is so popular that there is little fear of my words making 
any difference to his reputation. I believe this to be true, but it is like everything I wrote 
at this period, too strongly expressed— a very bad habit writing for the press almost invariably 
produces. — 1892. 




A SUMMER SHOWER 

C. E. PERI_(j1NI 



wished, dignified and carefully composed, accurate though very harsh 
and unlovely in its drawing, and aiming more at the qualities of 
fresco than oil painting. Notable as an attempt at a higher ideal 
than ordinary, it could net justly be said to be successful. It was 
like a Scotch sermon, too long, too ponderous, and too dogmatic. 

Very little else in this exhibition of more than average merit. A 
pleasant society picture of Mr. Perugini of a woman having her hair 
powdered, and an equally pleasant bit of Nature by Aumonier, of 
Easton Broad, Suffolk. Large landscapes of inferior interest and 
equal skill of those of former years, by Messrs. Brett and Millais, 
and a clever bit of dramatic painting by Mr. Pettie, of a half-naked 
Highlander, Hunted Down. This was a picture as unpleasant as it 
was powerful. A magnificent study of Palm Trees and Bananas, 
by Mr. E. W. Cooke, and a fine unfinished picture by Mr. J. G. 
Lewis, R.A.1 

Two interesting pictures by Mr. Hodson, one humorous, the other 
poetical ; a pretty group of children by Mr. Leslie, and four of Mr. 
Tadema's most successful small pictures, entitled The Seasons. Quite 
admirable these last, accepting the artist's exclusively sensuous point 
of view. Mr. Long's Egyptian Feast has already been incidentally 
noticed, and with a glance of pleasure at Mr. Watts' lovely portrait 
of a lovely woman, Miss Dorothy Tennant, I must pass to the 
exhibition of 1879.^ 

Q This was a collection in which the lesser-known men 

\Q/ \J bore the chief part — a strong average exhibition, very 
/ j^ disappointing in the main features, or what should 
have been the main features. Sir Frederick Leighton's Elijah was 
large, ambitious, and unsatisfactory, unpleasing in the attitude of the 
prophet, and uninteresting in the angel. Clever only as an anatomical 
study of a difficult posture. Mr. Poynter's Nausicaa was even less 
satisfactory ; poor in colour and composition, and lacking in all the 
delicate grace which the story required. Mr. Fildes' Return of the 
Penitent was important in size, but missed the dramatic point ; one 
had to look for the penitent, who was huddled up in a corner of the 
picture, the main part of which was occupied by a conventional group 
of labourers and villagers — a composition, not a picture. Mr. Pettie 's 
Death Warrant, though impressive and powerful, scarcely showed 
sufficient study of character, or refinement of work, to justify the 
scale adopted ; it was conventionally dramatic, and grew less attrac- 
tive upon each successive examination. Mr. Goodall's companion 

> The last picture on which Mr. Lewis worked. 

2 I have omitted the 1878 exhibition, unintentionally in the first place, and I do not supply 
the omission, since I wish these notes to represent only what was written in the essay here 
reproduced. 

333 



pictures of Hagar and Ishmael, Sarah and Isaac, were comparatively 
unimportant; and might, perhaps, not be unfairly described as 
vGUxgions pot-boilers. They had the simplicity of Mr. Goodall's best 
work, but neither the insight nor the dignity. Mr. Sant's Adversity 
showed him at his best, but this Academician is not one of our great 
painters ; he is the Frith of portraiture. 

The portraits were very good, however. The Gladstone of Sir John 
Millais, strong, serious, and life-like, equally unaffected in pose and 
painting; and the Samuel Cousins, R.A., by Mr. Frank Holl, 
sufficiently true and good to make his reputation in this line. This 
was Mr. HoU's first great success as a portrait painter; and since 
then he has never lacked sitters, and in fact now does little 
work of other kinds.^ 

And some of the younger men did very good work. Sir John 
Macallum's Water Frolic, with its sunny sea and larking swimmers, 
was bright and fresh as Nature itself; Mr. Ernest Parton's Waning 
of the Year, a wonderful specimen of elaborate study of Nature, though 
the chief charm of the work was the extreme delicacy of its har- 
monious grey and green. Mr. Alfred Parsons' Ending of Summer, 
and Mr. George Reid's Norham, and Mr. Aumonier's Norfolk 
Broad, and Mr. Hennessy's Aftermath, and Ernest Waterlow's 
Midsummer Day, and Mr. James Macbeth's Scotch Mountains, were 
all good careful landscapes, and marked by a suggestion of poetry and 
thought. Their Only Harvest, by Mr. Colin Hunter, almost recon- 
ciled us to the ruggedness of the painting by the force with which the 
meaning was driven home. No work in the whole of the Academy 
told the story so clearly as this picture of the fishermen gathering 
seaweed from the waves on a stormy evening. The danger and 
dreariness of the sea were perhaps never more powerfully expressed. 
Good, too, in this manner, was the pathetic picture of The Empty 
Saddle, by Mr. S. E. Waller — a servant bringing home his master's 
horse, and Mr. F. A. Bridgman's Royal Pastime in Nineveh showed 
an amount of thought, and care in details, which would not have 
disgraced Mr. Tadema himself. Mr. Blair Leighton's Till Death 
do us Part, was an idyll of society life, told with an incisive force 
which Mr. Frith must have envied — for it vanquished him on his 
own ground ; the work, moreover, was relieved from commonplaceness 
by the extreme solidity and sharpness of the painting, and by an 
amount of expression rare in this style of picture. Mr. C. Green, 
most skilful and original of illustrators, sent A Consultation, which 

' A pity, but who can blame an artist for being tempted by the prices paid just now for 
portraits ! In fact, all prices now are preposterous for people with a fashionable reputation. 
While this was passing through the press, Mr. Briton Riviere's Sympathy, a portrait of a 
little giri sitting upon the stairs with a white dog by her side, has been sold at Christie's for 
two thousand five hundred guineas. This picture was neither large nor exceptionally well 
painted, nor remarkable in any way whatever. 

334 



is probably the best work he ever did ; a pity that its ability should 
be so fruitless, and Mr. Barnard,^ whose ability equals Mr. Green's, 
but is less subtle and, perhaps, less refined in its humour, contributed 
At the Pantomime, a contrast between the pleasure of a child at her 
first play, and the weariness of an old man at his last. Mr. H. M. 
Paget, but lately an Academy student, sent an illustration to Enid, 
which showed power and study, and Mr. Lockhart's Gil Bias was 
vividly conceived and expressed. These, with the Bailiff's 
Daughter of Mr. Brewtnall,^ were all interesting, and in one way or 
another good work, and made up in some measure for the deficiencies 
of better-known artists. But the exhibition was on the whole dreary 
and uninteresting, and never had the want of high aim amongst the 
Academicians been more painfully evident. As one passed from 
room to room only to encounter the same worn-out themes, treated 
in the same conventional manner, the heart and brain grew weary 
as the feet, for, speaking generally, there was to be found here in the 
majority of the work, neither thought nor beauty. 

Three artists aimed, however, at this last, Messrs. Long, Brett, 
and Goodwin, and their work deserves attention. Mr. Long in his 
Esther and Vashti, two large companion pictures, showed us two 
types of Eastern beauty, richly adorned, and surrounded with all 
appropriate accessories. Attractive and powerfully painted as these 
were, they lacked depth of feeling, and real penetration into their 
subjects, and presented only a superficial book-of-beauty sort of love- 
liness, something akin to those large-eyed young ladies whom Miss 
Florence Claxton draws for the advertisements of How small these 
gloves mxike ones hands look ! or the something-or-other corset. Mr. 
Brett sought his realistic beauty of sun and sea successfully in 
his Stronghold of the Saison, but the scene was almost oppressively 
still and hot, and lacked the freshness with which this artist 
usually invested his landscapes. 

Mr. Albert Goodwin had two Voyages of Sinbad, which were the 
only works in the Academy deserving the epithet of imaginative. 
Delicate compositions these, in . which reality and unreality were 
mingled so gently and so inextricably, that the mind accepted them 
as frankly as the incongruities of a dream. I remember no touch of 
nature in modern art more beautifully introduced, than the painting 
of the pools of sea-water in one of these pictures. The wrecked 
ship lay stranded upon one side of the shore, and Sinbad was 
going hurriedly up the beach towards the cliffs ; but, in the fore- 
ground near the wreck, a great case of oranges had been burst open 

"• Mr. Barnard's best picture, however, should have been noticed previously, in 1877. A 
Saturday Night in the East End of London. A work which, although almost repulsive 
in its details, realised very powerfully a scene which is perhaps as significant a one as any 
in English life. 

' Hung where it could hardly be seen. 

335 



by the force of the waves, and the golden fruit was floating in the 
clear pools amongst the rocks, with little fishes nibbling at it eagerly.^ 
On the other side of the moon, were the little atmospheric gems of 
Mr. Cecil Lawson ; in which imagination showed clearly, but con- 
fusedly. The work surrendered too much to mystery, and all its 
meaning was only shadowed forth. One word must be given to 
the industrious, enthusiastic, but, alas ! futile work, of Mr. Rooke, an 
artist who is chiefly known as an' admirer of " Mr. Burne-Jones." 
At this time he painted habitually a series of subjects in the same 
frame, generally illustrative of the Old Testament. This year it 
was Ahab's Coveting which formed his subject-matter. This work 
was notable only for its attempt at making the qualities of design 
and meaning into a beautiful whole. Neither a great painter nor a 
good draughtsman, Mr. Rooke nevertheless might read a lesson to 
most of those who exhibit at the Academy, in the height of his 
aim, the patience of his endeavour, and in the almost sublime per- 
sistency with which he follows the best art with which he is 
acquainted, and he has at all events grasped two truths, that a picture 
should be beautiful, and should mean something.^ 

-^ OG ^^ This year there were three pictures, two of them 

X O O O ^y Academicians, which were deservedly the chief 

favourites, and were upon the whole the best works 

of their respective artists — these were The Visit to ^sculapius, by 

Mr. Poynter ; On Board the Bellerophon, by Mr. Orchardson ; and 

Britannia's Realm, by Mr. Brett. 

The Visit to ^Esculapius was an oil-painting enlarged from a 
small water-colour, which had been in the Dudley Gallery some 
years previously.^ In many ways this was an especially fine work, 
its chief defect being that inability to realise any type of female 
loveliness which Mr. Poynter has always shown. This Diana would 
have attracted no Endymion, nor, indeed, was she more attractive 
than the nymphs who accompanied her. But the pose of each figure 
was excellent ; the background was constructed with great care and 
success; the painting good throughout, and the colour, though a 
little lifeless and dull, by no means unpleasant. A seriously-intended, 
scholarly picture, produced with labour and skill, and thoroughly 
deserving of the favour met with. 

» I cannot resist stating here, that this picture of Mr. Goodwin's and its companion have 
since been purchased for the Gallery of his native town, Maidstone. A rare instance of 
honouring a prophet in his own country— before death ! 

n ^'■~?°??'^'^ best picture was exhibited the previous year, if I remember right, and was 
called The Story of Ruth. It was purchased by the Academy with the Chantrey funds 

It IS strange how critics and the public are affected by increased size and a change from 
water-colours to oils. The earlier and smaller edition of this picture was very superior to the 
oil-painting, but no one would see at the time that it was a work of really exquisite qualitv 
and I remember papers, which shall be nameless, that did not even mention it. 



Mr. Orchardson's work has been already criticised, and I have 
only space here to say of his Napoleon on the Bellerophon that it 
showed him at his very best. Always dramatic and powerful, in a 
more or less irresponsible fashion, the painter here manifested a 
restraint and a concentration which even his admirers could scarcely 
have expected. The situation was treated gravely and without 
exaggeration, and the composition was of a simple, natural kind, free 
from apparent artifice, and yet thoroughly good. 

Mr. Brett's Britannia s Realm was a curious companion in patriotism 
^-or Jingoism — to Mr. Orchardson's Napoleon. It represented a 
sunny sea, and in the distance many ships dotted here and there making 
up. channel, with what little breeze they could discover. Though not 
perhaps better than the painter's other works, this wide stretch of 
blue water was certainly more attractive to English eyes — there was 
a delicate compliment in the title, to each of those who looked at the 
broad expanse, and felt that in some sort it belonged to him. Any- 
way the popularity of the picture was undoubted ; the hint of meaning 
was just what Mr. Brett's work had always lacked to render it 
irresistible, and no one was surprised when Britannia's Realm was 
bought by the Academy ^ (together with the two other pictures of this 
year that I have mentioned), and when shortly afterwards Mr, Brett 
was elected an Associate. As he had been one of the chief attrac- 
tions of the Academy for nearly ten years, it was perhaps about time 
to recognise his merit. 

In this year public notice began to be attracted to the Venetian 
street scenes of Mr. Henry Woods, full of what I must consider to be 
a degraded cleverness, and founded upon the manner of a still more 
clever Venetian painter called Van Haanen.^ It would not be worth 
while to mention these were it not that Mr. Woods, to the surprise of 
every one, save the few who had noticed that his works were always 
hung on the line, has been lately elected an Associate of the Academy. 
His style of work is like that of dozens of foreign painters, but is 
tolerably rare in England. It is painted from dark to light, with black 
shadows and a deficiency of chiaroscuro. The painting possesses 
great manual dexterity of a coarse kind, and is probably as sharply 
opposed to all the methods of great Italian painting as any work could 
be. In subject it is exclusively vulgar, in the sense of invariably 
selecting incidents of little meaning and no elevation, a dirty Italian 
surrounded by bric-a-brac, a crowd of tourists and print-sellers on the 
Rialto, the interior of some Venetian garret or workshop — such are 
the themes on which Mr. Woods expends such talent as he possesses. 

1 With the funds supplied by the Chantrey bequest. .. , , . ^,. , ,,■ 

' Van Haanen is indeed a man of genius, though he does httle that is worthy ot Jus 

powers. The study of a nude model in this year's Grosvenor Gallery is magnificent from a 

technical point of view, and utterly degraded from any other. 
2 X 337 



A bad art, industriously and cleverly exercised, and thoroughly unfit 
to be recognised by an English academy as worthy of reward. 

There were two beautiful landscapes in this gallery, if landscape 
be the right word to apply to a seaside cliff and the Beachdd Margent 
of the Shore. These were Mr. Alfred Hunt's picture of Whitby 
Churchyard, called Unto this Last, and Mr, Henry Moore's coast- 
scene, entiried as in the above quotation. The former represented 
the summit of a sandstone cliff, to the very edge of which came the 
scattered tombstones, from the midst of which rose darkly the tower 
of the old church. By the side of and beneath the cliff, showed the 
roofs of the fishermen's dwellings, and on the other side of the 
harbour glimmered here and there the lights of the New town. Over 
water, churchyard, and dwelling, a soft shadow of twilight was settling 
slowly, but far above all these the sky was purple and gold, as with 
a promise, or a hope. In all ways this was a beautiful picture, 
impressive without being morbid, and sad without being dreary. It 
would be difficult to explain to any one who did not know Whitby as 
a painter knows it, how essentially accurate and true this work was to 
the character as well as to the details of the scene. The magnificent 
painting of the sky, and the subtlety of colouring in the twilit town 
and churchyard, every one could see for himself, but the truth of such 
points as the character of the church and its scattered gravestones, of 
the manner in which the old houses lift themselves at evening against 
the side of the cliff, and of the aspect at sunset of the new town — all 
these little things peculiar to the scene can hardly be appreciated 
by a stranger. Perhaps the hardest thing to explain in the picture 
was the difference from a simple sketch of Whitby at evening, for it 
was far more than that, being penetrated through and through with 
the feeling hinted at in the title, a complex feeling, best perhaps to be 
described by the lines of two poets of different ages and nationalities, 
Gray and Longfellow : — 

" Each in his narrow cell for ever laid. 
The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep " ; 
and 

" It crossed the churchyard with a sigh, 
And said ' Not yet ! in quiet lie.' " 

Mr. Henry' Moore's picture was a very different kind, and was 
perhaps the finer of the two, though possessing little of Mr. Hunt's 
tender feeling. The effect is a fleeting one of great pictorial 
difficulty, given with perfect truth. The scene is a beach from which 
a rough sea has just ebbed, the waves beyond, and above a sky of 
heavy cumulus clouds, lurid with a flash of stormy sunlight. In the 
distance, close to the margin of the water, are a cart and horse, and 
a man presumably gathering seaweed or wreckage, and perhaps the 
subtlest piece of observation shown in the picture is the manner in 

338 



which Mr. Moore has painted these objects, quite firmly and distinctly, 
and has yet managed to give them that air of being swallowed up in 
the vast expanse of sky and sea by which they are surrounded. 
That inexplicable sense of majesty and immensity, which most of us 
have at some time or another felt in the presence of some of the 
wilder effects of Nature, has been caught fas.t hold of by Mr. Moore 
in this work, where Nature seems big, and man small, yet not some- 
how quite insignificant, if only because he can stand there with his 
horse and cart carrying out his daily work in face of all that blind 
power of sea and sky. In every sense of the word, this was a fine 
picture, and one of which an English painter might well be proud.' 

For the other extreme of merit, which received (in its painter) the 
Academic recognition always denied to Mr. H. Moore, it is instructive 
to think of Mr. MacWhirter's Lord of the Glen, an enormous (con- 
sidering the subject) picture of a single Scotch fir on a ledge of rock ; 
or of the same painter's still more important composition of two bee- 
hives and a hay-rake. ** The contrast is advisable and instructive, as 
Mr. MacWhirter was at this time the only pure landscape painter 
who had received Associate rank for some years, and it was a very 
curious question for what qualities of execution or feeling he was 
selected. As far as I am aware, his chief qualification for election, 
was his capacity for painting a birch tree, a subject on which he had 
several times displayed his ability at the Academy. In any case, a 
study of the actual brushwork on his pictures may be recommended 
to dispirited students, as showing them how low is the standard of 
merit which the Academy fixes for its members. 

Q Q I must say but a very few general words as to the 

J Q Q J exhibition of this last year. Mr. Cecil Lawson's 
Pool was the most impressive and significant, if not 
the best landscape. The dark trees overhung the still, unhealthy- 
looking water, with an apparently sinister meanmg, even the light on 
the landscape beyond looked wan and ghostly. A fine picture from 
its own point of view ; abandoning beauty of colour and definition of 
form for a purpose, and gaining its end sternly. Those who 
admired the modern French School, found a good example of les 

valeurs in Mr. Fantin's portrait of Mdlle. L R. , a dark 

woman in a black dress against a grey background. And Signor 
Gaetano Chierici's Frightful State of Things showed a power of 

» 5ome part of the description of these two pictures appeared in an article written at the 
time. I have repeated it here, because I believe that, though perhaps a httle over-enthusi- 
astic, the words are essentially true, and more accurate to detail than I could be after the 

*^^I forgS die name of this work, but it was probably The Three Inseparables, or Golden 
Summer, or some other such frequent title. 

339 



elaborating the plumage of various fowls, and the squalid details of 
a cottage interior, such as Gransommeer himself might have envied. 
The picture represented a child alarmed by the intrusion of various 
turkeys, hens, ducks, etc., all intent on seizing the piece of bread 
and butter he had been given to eat. It was wonderfully painted — 
the animals not too well drawn, but full of expression, and the child's 
face, in its terror and disgust, beyond praise. His very toes were 
curling up with anger and fear, Mr. Leader's February fill Dyke 
was one of the wet-road, evening-light landscapes, by which he 
is so well known, and is only noticeable here because Mr. Leader 
has since been elected an Associate. Mr. Long's Diana or Christ 
— his least meritorious picture — utterly failing to tell its story, or to 
realise the scene intended. 

Mr. Millais' Cinderella, as pretty a child model as one could wish to 
see, the same as he has painted several times before and since.^ Mr. 
Tadema's Sappho showed his imitative dexterity at its highest point, 
but told no story — had, in fact, none to tell. It might as well have 
been called playing at marbles. Mr. Poynter's Helen, notable for 
some very good painting of the gold necklace ; but as for the Helen, 
the remark made upon his last picture applies equally here. 

The Last Voyage of Henry Hudson, of Mr. John Collier, was one 
of the pictures purchased this year by the Academy with the 
Chantrey bequest funds, a large, somewhat dismal composition repre- 
senting the explorer after his crew had set him adrift, with his young 
son, in an open boat. It was a dull but meritorious picture, carefully 
drawn and painted, and telling the facts of its story unmistakably, ii 
not reasonably ; the work of a patient, conscientious painter failing 
to touch the chord of pathos which would have been the only 
excuse for the choice of such a subject. With this should, perhaps, 
be placed Mr. Gow's large Montrose at Kilsyth, which, according tb 
Mr. Gow's usual custom, depicted a stirring semi-historical scene, but 
did so coldly, and with a thoroughly Scotch lack of enthusiasm. 
Carlyles Chelsea, by Mr. Frederic Brown, I must give a word of 
praise to, despite its unimportance, from my knowledge of its truth 
to the locality. Mr. Herkomer's Missing was certainly the pathetic 
picture of the year — at all events in subject and importance. It was 
a very large composition of life-size figures, showing the sad crowd 
which gathered round the posters placed upon the dockyard gates 
at Portsmouth, respecting the loss of the Atalanta. A finely con- 
ceived picture, insufificiendy thought and worked out, but good and 
true in intention, and instinct with a great deal of rugged power. 

It seemed to me that Mr. Arthur Stock's At Last was even more 
truly pathetic than this, though it was of a simple, somewhat 

} One of the daughters of the late Mr. Buckstone, the comedian. 



hackneyed subject: the return of a bronzed soldier to his aged 
mother's home. Its difference from other works of the same class 
lay chiefly in the intensity of the expressions in the two faces, and 
the dramatic power with which they were contrasted. Mr. Stock had 
given the soldier a look of reckless, careless pleasure, of genuine, 
but superficial gladness, at seeing the old lady again ; but he had 
given to the mother's face only patience, a patience which told of 
many days of past longing for her boy, of hope deferred, which had 
at last brought about almost the loss of feeling. Not a great picture 
artistically, but a very true, and, in one sense of the word, a 
beautiful one. 

To be compared with it on this latter score of truth, was the 
composition of The Queen's Shilling; by Mr. P. R. Morris ; the last- 
mentioned artist, though possessed of equal, if not superior artistic 
feeling to Mr. Stock, has failed entirely, because, as in Mr. Fildes' 
Penitent, he forgot the meaning of his work in the execution. He 
painted a picture, and incidentally illustrated a subject, and so, from 
all but a strictly technical point of view, the work was a failure. 
Mr. Walter Shaw's two studies of waves, Atlantic Rollers and A 
Comber, were worthy of attention and praise from their conscientious- 
ness, but one had only to turn from them to the work of Mr. H. 
Moore and Mr. Hook, to see the difference between painting waves, 
and painting and loving the sea. The mystery and the gladness of 
these latter artists' work has no correspondence in Mr. Shaw's 
painting, elaborate and skilful as the latter is ; it knows almost 
too much, and feels _/ar too little. 

I should like to have contrasted the studious elaborate art of Sir 
James Linton with the sincerity of aim, multiplicity of detail, and 
the broader, more superficial, and more dramatic manner of Mr. 
Seymour Lucas, but it is quite time to bring these already over- 
long notes to a close, and only mention those artists as doing good 
work, and with them Messrs. Crofts and Caton Woodville, the battle 
painters, the latter of whom was to do in the following year the 
best English battle - picture I know — that of the Retreat from 
Maiwand. 

To sum up the results of these scattered notes on the exhibitions 
of the Royal Academy from 1872 to this date (1881) a few points 
may be noticed. 

The old traditions of the Academy, gathered mainly from the 
Dutch and Flemish schools, and consolidated by the practice and 
influence of such men as Mulready, the elder Leslie, and \yilkie, 
have passed away, and at the present time every one is painting in 
his own wild way. The time is not one of decline, but of change. 
Foreign art is powerfully affecting English; its merits, eccen- 
tricities, and failings are all visible. English painting is no longer 

341 



so dull nor so good as of old, but more lively and less settled. 
Landscape is practically dead, and Scotch impressionism, pre- 
Raphaelite minuteness, and French Values divide its field between 
them. The group of idyllic artists, who promised at the be- 
ginning of this decade to do such great things, are dead ere 
they have properly founded their work or created a school, and no 
one has taken their place. We have no equivalent at the present 
moment for such art as that of Sir Edwin Landseer in animal 
painting, Lewis in Eastern life, and Linnell and Palmer in land- 
scape, all of whom were painting ten years ago. We have no 
Walker, no Mason, no Rossetti. On the other hand, never was 
portrait painting so strong, or so little conventional. And never 
were there three living artists who could show a prouder record 
of laborious earnest work than can be shown by Sir Frederick 
Leighton, Mr. Watts, and Mr. Poynter. I have left out of all 
account those artists whom the insolence, the eclecticism, or the 
indifference of the Academy has excluded from its exhibitions, 
but I should be giving a wrong impression of my estimate of 
English art, if I did not add my conviction that the painting of the 
so-called pre-Raphaelites, Mr. Madox Brown, Mr. Rossetti, Mr. 
Burne-Jones, and Mr. Holman Hunt, has been the most vital develop- 
ment of art in England during the last twenty years, and that it is 
to their influence that English painting is mainly indebted for the 
increased earnestness and truth which are to be found therein. 

They have prepared the way for the changes that have come and 
that are still coming. They have struck a blow at conventional and 
costume painting, from which it can never recover, and they have 
shown the possibility of painting landscape from an entirely different 
standpoint from that of the old classical one. At present they look 
simply like destroyers, but hints of reconstruction are to be found 
here and there in their work, and at any rate it is something to 
have gained a broader and more worthy view of art as a whole 
— of its vitality, its meaning, and its beauty — than we had in the 
old days of placid and contented ignorance. 

And as to the Academy — well, one is tempted to say with Beppo, 
" with all thy faults I love thee still." The institution might be a 
little more liberal, and perhaps will some day ; but, in the meantime, 
it is what we English people have made it — a genuine product of an 
inartistic soil. A trifle commercial, a trifle obstinate, and a trifle 
dull, but representative of the sturdy common sense of the nation, 
and identified with many interests and traditions which are not lightly 
to be cast away. 



jVijfe— Here ends the essay which I wrote at Rome in the early spring of 1883 • the 
notes which follow are collected from my criticisms written from year to year in the Spectator. 



342 



THE ROYAL ACADEMY. 
PART II. 1882-1890. 

Q Q This year introduced Jan van Beers to the English 

X O O 2 public ; and is so specially notable, in view of the 
frequent exhibitions of that painter's work which 
have since been held in Bond Street, and of the high estimation in 
which the artist is now held by a certain section of the critical public. 
Here is my remark, written at the time, on his picture The Yacht, 
La Sirene : 

" In its way a very remarkable work; a perfect specimen of sensually 
suggestive French art. We say French, because the motive 
and style of the picture are entirely French (the painter is a 
Belgian). Taken as a pictorial expression of a page of Arsene 
Houssaye or Adolphe Belot, it leaves absolutely nothing to be 
desired. Some of us may perhaps think that this is hardly one of 
those fair-seeming shows which lift the soul up higher — but of 
that the Academicians are no doubt the best judges. Next 
year, perhaps, we shall have the original studies for the illustra- 
tions to La Vie Parisienne exhibited in the Great Room, while 
the Grdvin sketches for the Petit Journal fill up the odd 
corners." 
I had never before seen any of this artist's painting ; but his 
subsequent exhibitions confirmed the idea suggested above. For it 
is distinctly the baser side of modern life, and the unmentionable 
half of the world in which Van Beers chiefly delights. His art 
is essentially caricature : caricature not only of clothes but emotion ; 
he revels almost equally in elaborations of dress and undress ; and it 
does not need to be a very strict moralist to feel a considerable 
dislike to his frequent pictures of little improper girls sticking their 
silk-stockinged legs as far beyond the limits of their frilled petticoats 
as the artist thinks suggestively desirable. It was a curious experi- 
ence to me, a year or two later than the period of which I am 
speaking, to find that many decent English maids and matrons thought 
it the proper thing to frequent the Van Beers collections, for not 
only the subjects, but the motives of the compositions were simply 
detestable. The pictures were worse than coarse, and their prevailing 
characteristic was morbid indecency. The painter has lately, I 
notice, become a contributor to one of our newest illustrated period- 
icals, entitled Pick-me-up, and there the admirers of his work will find 
several choice examples of that peculiar art which has for so many 
years been a favourite with the Parisian public, and of which it now 
seems we are to become the latest exponents. 

One is glad to remember that in this same year of 1882 the 
President of our Academy sent what might fitly be classed as an 

343 



antidote to the above. This composition he entitled Phryne, of 

which I then wrote : 

" The President has done his best to escape from that slough of 
waxy women and brown -skinned men in which he has dis- 
ported himself so long, and has given us a work great in size 
and execution, and almost great in intention. His Phryne 
recalls the painter of the Hercules and Alcestis, and is 
certainly the finest work he has produced since The Slinger. 
For on the whole, the Phryne is a great picture, though 
hardly a natural one, and crushes all the surrounding pictures 
for one single reason, that it is beautiful, and the majority 
of them are not, and the motivelessness is less irritating to 
us from the nature of the subject. Phryne, we may con- 
ceive, was neither very loving nor very wise, but a fine animal, 
and this is a very fine animal indeed, strong and glowing, 
yet delicately moulded, full of life and health, and yet with 
something of sculpturesque purity and dignity about her — a 
golden -brown woman, with slight draperies of crimson and 
orange clinging here and there to her soft limbs, and standing 
in a flash of sunlight against a blue sea." 

I have called it an antidote because of the purity with which Sir 
Frederick Leighton endowed his subject, raising the courtesan almost 
as much as Van Beers lowered his silk-stockinged lady, and the 
tailored ape of a man who hands her down the pier steps. 

The President's Wedded was also exhibited this year ; a composi- 
tion which has since- become too popular to need description. Here 
for once he wedded grace of line to true feeling. 

Mr. Poynter sent, too, a work rather interesting at the present time, 
a design for the decoration of St. Paul's, which was never destined to 
be executed : I criticised it at the time as wanting in simplicity and 
decorative suitability, and I believe that when the height and size of 
the dome of St. Paul's is considered, and especially the absence of 
light therein, the remark was correct.^ 

One portrait of this year for old sake's sake I must repeat my 
delight in — the portrait of my old Master — the Master of Trinity : 

1 After ten years, the St. Paul's authorities have entrusted the decoration of the choir to 
Mr. Richmond, the first part of whose work thereon, consisting of large single figures on a 
ground of gold mosaic, is about half completed. And the same remark may be applied 
thereto as to the suggested desigii of Mr. Poynter ; that is, that in a couple of years the 
more delicate portions of the design will be wholly invisible through smoke and dirt, and 
in ten years probably we shall see nothing but the golden ground <y the mosaic. It should 
be noted that Mr. Richmond's designs, though somewhat feeble and commonplace, are yet 
of simpler character, and so far more appropriate than the Poynter cartoon ; the least satis- 
factory feature of the present mosaics being that the figures do not adequately fill the 
architectural spaces allotted to them, but are, as it were, plumped down in the centre of 
each spandril, leaving the comers empty. 

344 



" One of those marvellous if unpleasant likenesses which haunt 
the memory like a too-persistent nightmare. The rigidity and 
dull immobile smile that Mr. Herkomer has fixed upon the 
canvas are wonderfully characteristic of Dr. Thompson, and 
though perhaps his friends might wish for a less stern reading 
of the character, it is a vitally true one. This might well be 
the man of whom we used to tell the story that when he was 
preaching to us in our chapel one Sunday morning, he looked 
round with a cold smile as he gave out his text on the Parable of 
the Talents, and began his sermon in the following words : Now, 
you have all of you one talent (a pause), and some of you have 
two talents (a longer pause), perhaps one or two of you have 
even three talents ! " 

The only other remarkable work of this season was the Perseus 
Arming : the first work exhibited by Mr. Alfred Gilbert in London, 
of which I may reproduce my criticism : 

" We cannot close this notice better than by referring to a little 
piece of sculpture, which is in reality the most delightful thing 
in the Exhibition. It is called Perseus Arming, and is by Mr. 
Alfred Gilbert, a young artist who is, we understand, studying 
at Rome, and who should do great things." 

This work was not in the Academy but in the Grosvenor Gallery, 
and Mr, Gilbert's sculpture has since become well known to the 
public, and even, I believe, received notice from the press. 

The second portrait painter I care to remember this year was M. 
H. Fantin, whose painting is entirely French in its method, and 
whose pictures have absolutely no attractiveness of colour or acces- 
sory to recommend them : they win what favour we have to give, 
by their sheer truth to certain effects of dull atmosphere upon the 
human face. It is a kind of winter-afternoon light, in which M. 
Fantin poses his sitters in their black dresses, against their dark 
grey backgrounds ; everything else is surrendered to what the French 
call les valeurs! The result is a strange and, in some ways, un- 
attractive art, but one in which fine results of tone, and a certain 
unity of impression, are undoubtedly gained. These pictures are 
extremely subtle in their gradations of colour, and the work is such 
as to grow upon the liking, more than to arrest the attention. The 
effort of the artist is to combine a picture and a portrait, and in this 
process the dress and background of the sitter, and the light and 
shade upon the face and body, become of primary importance.^ 

1 I have some pleasure in remembering that, about this period, M. Fantin, who was 
entirely unknown to me, wrote to say mine was the first word of praise, or even sympathetic 
criticism, he had ever received in England. WeU, he cannot say that to-day, at all events— 
for no one's reputation is more secure. 

2 Y 345 



O O "At Burlington House this year there were only two 

J Q Q ^ works of art which are likely to live, as being of 
O absolutely first-rate quality. One was a picture"; the 
other a bronze bust. Let us take the picture first. It was 
by Mr. W. L. Wyllie, and was called, Toil, Glitter, Grime, 
and Wealth on a Flowing Tide, and showed a scene upon the 
Thames just below the Pool. The work was admirable in 
several ways. A significant bit of national life was depicted 
with truth and clearness; the power shown of combining an 
aspect of Nature with the doings of men, which is at the root of 
all great landscape painting ; and the picture also succeeded in 
making a scene significant and beautiful without in any way 
violating the facts of the case. Mr. Wyllie had had the heart to 
feel and the brain to understand that in art, as in life, beauty may 
lie in unexpected places, and depend no less upon contrast than 
harmony, and so he had made the dark strength of his barges 
beautiful against the glittering sunshine of the unstable water, 
and given to the rough forms of his watermen the true pictur- 
esqueness which is their birthright; the freedom and power born 
of the sea and wind, and of a life in which action is bereft 
of uncertainty, though beset with danger. I can imagine no 
higher praise for this picture than to say that it might -be 
worthily placed in our National Gallery as a companion to the 
Old Tdmdraire of Turner. It shows the life of the men who 
helped to make the tradition of England, and I cannot see why 
we should refuse that sympathy to the everyday labour and 
danger of the living, that we bestow so plentifully upon the 
vanished heroism of the dead. 

" In any case Mr. Wyllie is to be congratulated upon his achieve- 
ment. He has succeeded in giving one more disproof to the 
doctrines of those shallow, morbid sentimentalists who groan so 
loudly that modern life has nothing picturesque or beautiful, 
and he has painted a picture which, for truth of action, natural 
effect, and vividness of delineation, may rank with any painting 
of the present day. 

" The other work to which I have alluded, is the bronze entitled. 
Study of a Head, by Alfred Gilbert. This is a very fine 
though very unpretending work, done with equal skill and 
smcerity, and instinct with a feeling for the antique, which 
is difficult to explain. The truth is, that Mr. Gilbert's 
work is like the antique less from the outside than the in. 
He is penetrated with the Greek spirit rather than the 
Greek form, and he is gaining from Nature and himself what 
the Greek gained from like sources. The chief works of 

346 



modern sculpture fail, as a rule, from being either too brutally, 

or, perhaps, I should say, too exclusively, realistic, or from 

being simply echoes of the work of the Italian or Greek 

sculptors ; and the peculiar quality of Mr. Gilbert's work ,is, 

that it avoids either of these extremes, and that it succeeds in 

reproducing much of the Greek simplicity and unconsciousness, 

without imitating the mere outside form in which those qualities 

are displayed." 

There was a small collection exhibited in this year at a minor 

gallery, which should not pass unrecorded. This was a series of 

terra-cotta plaques, modelled in very high relief, by Mr. George 

Tinworth, who was at that time, and is, I believe, still, a workman 

at Messrs. Doulton's pottery works. I find written of these in my 

notes of the year's art,^ that — 

" All of these were Scriptural subjects, mostly compositions in high 
relief of many figures, very rough and naturalistic in treatment, 
and full of a spirit of sincere and somewhat dogmatic belief. 
They reminded us a- good deal of early German work, notably 
of such sculptures as those on the walls of St. Sebald's at 
Nuremberg ; but it seemed strange to see the naiveU of the 
early Bavarian sculpture reproduced in the nineteenth century, 
and exhibited in a Bond Street gallery for a shilling. That Mr. 
Tinworth is a genuine and talented artist is beyond all doubt ; 
that he is a sculptor who will or who could develop, we think more 
than doubtful. His very virtues will probably prevent him 
carrying his work any farther than he does at present ; if it 
became more perfect it would become absurd ; it is only while 
it remains childlike in its execution, that we can condone its 
simplicity of thought and its frankness of expression. It is a 
sort of Watts' hymn in clay, and would never bear elaboration." 

On the whole, it must be said that this was a somewhat uninter- 
esting Academy. The President's frieze was uninteresting, and, 
impossible as it may seem, almost awkward in its arrangement. Mr. 
Albert Moore sent nothing ; and Mr. Goodwin, whose landscape is in 
some ways analogous to the last-mentioned artist's figure composition, 
did not show at his best in his Enchanted Lake, which was but a 
coarse and spotty reproduction of his former Voyages of Sinbad. I 
confess to have been personally very much charmed by Sir John 
Millais' Grey Lady flitting drearily up a dimly-lighted stairway in 
some old manor-house. A fine shadow of a picture this, very literally 
a nocturne in grey. There was, too, a splendid Millais portrait, that 
of the Duchess of Westminster, a fresh young English lady in a black 
silk dinner-dress, black gloves, and with a fan in her hand, turning 
1 In the Contemporary Review, from which also the first quotation is taken. 

347 



little more than a profile to the spectator. One of the best of Sir John 
Millais' ladies' portraits, absolutely lifelike in its reality, without in 
the least straining after effect. And if this was good, the same 
artist's presentment of Mr. Hook, R.A., was even better, and was 
the finest portrait in the exhibition, and one of the painter's strongest, 
freshest, and most brilliant pieces of painting. The old sea and sea- 
coast painter has been taken in his habit as he lived, in a rough frieze 
suit, with a palette on his thumb, and his face glowing as if it were 
fresh from wind and wave. 

For intense cleverness — cleverness as distinct from genius — I think 
there was nothing in the '83 exhibition comparable to Mr, Logsdail's 
Piazza of St. Mark, which represented the evening gathering in the 
great Venetian square in front of Mr. Ruskin's favourite cathedral, 
Mr. Logsdail, whose later work is criticised elsewhere, has since 
developed his amazing power of realisation, till at the present day 
there is, I believe, no living artist whose work has so much apparent 
solidity and relief His pictures this present year of 1892, chiefly of 
Venetian architecture, were simply marvellous in this respect. There 
was in one of them some painting of sculptured bronze, which for 
texture, and the management of its light and shade appeared to me 
absolutely perfect. 

Q Q This year is set down in my notes as a better one 

J Q Q A than usual, and the reason given is that there were in 
I the Royal Academy " four works which are distinctly 
first-rate." Of these, two are works of sculpture and two are paint- 
ings, and three out of the four examples are by members of the 
Academy. The two sculptures, one of which is a smallish bronze, 
something under three feet high, and the other a life-size plaster cast 
from the clay model, are, without comparing their different methods, 
finer in their kind than the paintings ; and one of them is so good 
that it alone would justify us in thinking this year's exhibition 
especially interesting. 

As it is very much the fashion to go to the Academy and alto- 
gether disregard the galleries devoted to sculpture — a neglect, by 
the way, for which the behaviour of the Academicians themselves 
has been mainly responsible — our readers will, we trust, pardon us 
for asking those of their number who care for art, as distinguished 
from caring for a popular subject for conversation, to go, while their 
eyes and attention are still fresh, and they are as yet unwearied with 
trying to see a thousand pictures in two hours, and give five minutes' 
time to the bronze figure of Icarus, by Alfred Gilbert. It is not only 
the best sculpture in the Academy of this year, but it is an essentially 
fine work of art ; fine for any time and any age of the world's history 

348 










'-C 



.^az,- 







a 



o 
tJ 5 



H 



T— one of those bits of truth seen through the glass of genius which 
enrich the world for ever. 

We of the art criticism in the Spectator have been blamed a good 
deal of late years for seeing everything modern and national in a 
pessimist light — of being too cantankerous to admire anything. Well, 
here is something we admire to the uttermost — admire so much, that 
if we had our will it should be put in a little room at the Academy 
by itself, and it should be a condition, equally with the paying of the 
shilling, that those who enter the Academic portals should go first of 
all to see the masterpiece of the exhibition. Two years ago this 
young sculptor, who has been working at Rome for some years, and 
who before that was at Paris, had a statuette of Perseus at the 
Grosvenor. Gallery, of which we then wrote that it was really the 
most delightful thing in the exhibition, and that its author should do 
great things. It did not need any ghost come from the grave to tell 
us that — it was, or should have been, evident to every one who looked 
at the statuette ; but we may be pardoned for feeling pleasure at the 
accomplishment of even so safe a prediction, as of all perilous paths 
in art, a sculptor has perhaps the most perilous to tread, and, as a 
rule, only escapes from slavish imitation of the Greeks, to fall into 
the fascinations of Michelangelo, and leaves that master for the 
asceticism of the early Italian, or the voluptuousness of the modern 
French schools. Let us for once give due honour to a young artist, 
not yet too proud or too weary to thank us for our praise, that after 
a dozen years of unappreciated and unsparing toil, through every 
doubt of friends, every temptation to inferior work, every hardship 
of life — hardships such as only those of his own profession can 
understand — he has brought us out into the light of day an art 
which is at once simple, manly, and sincere ; and which has, besides 
those merits, that subtle quality of style, that touch of creative power, 
that peculiar grace of mingled truth, and beauty, and insight, which 
we label conveniently — genius ; a useful x which solves many an 
enigma. 

Our readers would not thank us, probably, for going at length 
into the reasons why we speak in such terms of extreme praise 
of this work, and why we claim such immediate recognition for 
its author. The one is a technical subject of extreme difficulty; 
the other is founded upon the knowledge of how often a great 
artist has his powers crushed and his mind embittered by the non- 
recognition of his powers whilst he is young; whilst he yet, as 
Mr. Ruskin once wrote, runs his race through the asphodel meadows 
of his youth. But we may, perhaps, be forgiven for just saying 
a word or two upon the more evident merits of Mr. Gilbert's work. 
And firstly, from the technical side, it evidences extreme knowledge 
not only of the muscles and other anatomical details of the human 

349 



body, but of its capabilities — its strength, grace, and freedom of 
action. The difference .between a figure which is graceful and 
correct in one position, but stands there for ever and is inconceivable 
in another, and a figure at which we look and see that before 
it was in this position, but a minute ago it was in another, and 
a minute hence will be in a third, is one of the great and essential 
differences between mechanical and vital work in sculpture. The 
latter lives — lives in that it is connected with past and future ; lives 
by virtue of its affinity (unspoken but expressed, and realised by 
the spectator) with himself and all the natural creation ; lives, perhaps, 
by the perception of a subtler law still — that law of change which 
is the law of life. In the conveyance of this impression of the 
changeful vitality of human life and action, lies one of the great 
merits of the statue of which we speak, Icarus is resting upon 
his right foot, the other just touching the ground. His arms, upon 
the upper part of which are bound the heavy wings, are slightly 
bent; the head looks downward to the earth he is about to leave. 
The whole figure is alive ; and in another moment we feel that 
the wings will be brought into motion, and the boy will spring 
into the air. The sculptor has understood his subject thoroughly ; 
the figure has all the slender length of lower limb and* strength 
of arm and shoulder which we feel would be wanted for such a 
task. If any man might fly, this youth, with his strength and 
lissomness, would be the one. This is no made-up Icarus, labelled 
for the part, but a being of whom every muscle, and every detail 
of attitude and expression, tell his story. One other technical 
excellence we must just mention, which is the beauty of line which 
this figure possesses. Owing to the position of the arms, which 
are bent at slightly different angles, the arrangement of the wings, 
and the general pose of the figure, it results that from whatever 
point of view this work is regarded, the eye is met with varieties 
of different and beautiful curves, crossed, but not broken, by poise 
of head or line of limb. How enormous the difficulty, and how 
rare the attainment of this in its full perfection, can only be told 
by sculptors themselves and those who have given long time to 
the study of that art ; but any one who goes to the Royal Academy 
can, in a measure, test the truth of our words for themselves in 
this respect, by comparing the Icarus with the other works of sculp- 
ture. And it is worthy of note how even Mr. Thornycroft's great 
work, with all its science and manly grace, fails in comparison. 

We have left the consideration of this second work in the 
Academy, Mr. Hamo Thornycroft's statue of The Mower, a little 
too long to enable us to do it entire justice. It is inferior to 
Mr. Gilbert's work in two important respects. It is purely and 
simply realistic in its motive, rather than ideal ; and it has, despite 

350 



all its grace and beauty, which are very great, some touch of that 
heaviness, that Britannic quality of mind, which dulls so much of 
our artistic work. It is strong, and graceful in strength; but it 
is not delicate, not dainty ; it does not seem to have been wrought 
with the finger-tips, and touched lovingly from beauty to beauty 
till it reached perfection. From this there results some limitation 
of its artistic merit, and the statue lacks style ; it is distinctly of 
a period, and its place is limited by the nationality of its author, 
his English parentage, his Greek sympathies. Just a hint of 
imitation rather than inspiration defaces the work. With all this, 
Mr. Thornycroft deserves very high praise indeed; his statue is 
the finest attempt to express modern English labour in terms of 
plastic art which we have ever seen ; it is equally fine in its way 
with the two figures of the ploughman and his lad leading the 
horses, in Walker's celebrated picture. Mr. Thornycroft has had 
to struggle with great difficulties, and rather prejudices us against 
his statue at first, by having taken his mower's shirt off and suspended 
his short leather breeches round him by a single brace. It seems 
a rather strained device to show the pectoral muscles, though in 
the retired parts of England, no doubt, it is common enough for the 
mowers to work in this airy costume. But the position,, the face 
of the man, the unconscious dignity of strength and labour, are all 
fine in the extreme in this statue. 

Both of the sculptures of which we have been speaking are good, 
even great, works of art, of which England and the Academy may 
be proud. And we cannot resist mentioning here the fact that Sir 
Frederick Leighton was one of the very first to appreciate Mr. 
Gilbert's talent, and that we believe the present work of which we 
have been speaking was a commission from him. It is no mean 
honour to a man in such a position as that of the President, that he 
can habitually find time to help and encourage those young artists 
who might otherwise in many instances have sought for such aid in 
vain. 

To pass to a very different work — a picture by Mr. Orchardson. 
On the whole, the Mariage de Convenance which he sends this 
year is the finest picture he has ever painted. Like all his work, it 
has many faults ; the canvas is half empty, the painting unequal and 
somewhat ragged, the drawing and modelling harsh and unpleasant. 
Look, for an instance of this, at the woman's bare arm, which is, 
perhaps, the ' most prominent portion of the picture, and should 
certainly have been one of the most delicately and tenderly treated. 
It is like a badly-cut piece of stick ; there is not the least attempt to 
give the delicacy, the modelling, or the transparency of human flesh. 
Little bits of the colour, too, are garish and unlikely, if not impossible — 
see the hue of the wine which the servant is in the act of pouring. 

351 



But to all these things we are habituated in Mr. Orchardson's work, 
and when the figures are, as here, on a smaller scale than usual, the 
faults do not tell so much. In every other respect this is a very 
magnificent piece of painting. Magnificent is the right word for it, 
for the picture is neither lovely, delicate, nor attractive in the right 
sense of these words. It is a drama of modern life, treated with 
Zola-like realism, but not touching those themes upon which his 
realism expends itself It is at once a satire, a sermon, and an 
illustration upon the most common instance of society — the case of 
a woman who marries without love. And, to our thinking, the 
power of the picture lies in the fact that the artist has left it entirely 
to tell its own story, without the faintest hint of pictorial artifice to 
help out his meaning, and — that the story is told. The husband is 
not represented as especially old or unattractive ; the woman, though 
beautiful, is neither very young nor very angelic. Two perfectly- 
dressed people of our modern world, there they sit opposite to each 
other over their dessert, while an irreproachable man-servant pours 
out the claret — and there one feels they will sit, and sit for ever. At 
least that for ever is the thought of the picture — the thought in the 
woman's mind that the loveless years will go on and on to all eternity. 
He has what he wanted, not being of a very intellectual or very 
exalted frame of mind, and liking his claret perfectly warmed ; and 
she — well, she has what she bargained for. The story is old enough, 
but Mr. Orchardson has made it live anew. There is not a single 
detail which does not help the effect: the fruit on the table, the 
glasses and the plate, the care with which the servant pours the wine, 
the perfectly immaculate perfection of costume, and conventional air 
of the husband, and the traces underneath of the life he has led 
and the passions he has worn out, — everything tells. The picture is 
quite French in its unsparingness, its absolute refusal of surrender to 
the domesticities and the goody-goodyism with which we cloak 
our vices. After all, the thing is true. Let us have it in naked 
hideousness, and let our girls go and look at it ; and perhaps some of 
them will one day thank Mr. Orchardson. For a glimpse at the 
other side of the moon, they can walk across the gallery and look at 
the fourth work which we have to mention to-day — Sir Frederick 
Leighton's great picture of Cymon and Iphigenia, hung, as it deserves 
to be hung, in the centre of the great room. The story is too well 
known to bear repeating, but Sir Frederick has treated it very much 
from the high-falutin' (we do not mean these words ironically) point 
?^ V^T' r ^^^ Cymon has a rather fine, thoughtful face, and is clad 
m thick folds of scarlet drapery ; his Iphigenia lies on a couch under 
some great trees, covered with a wide-spreading gold-embroidered 
drapery, while beyond is the deepest of blue seas, and the moon just 
shmmg above the horizon. This is at the very opposite pole of art 
to Mr. Orchardson's— lovely composition, and nothing else— and his 

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O 



is nothing less than lovely ; but then Sir Frederick's work carries 
beauty so far as to be justified. The colour here is ifull and strong, 
compared with much of the President's later painting ; the head and 
arm of Iphigenia are delicious in softness, without having the pinky 
waxwork quality with which one has of late associated his faces, and 
the disposition of the great drapery about the woman's limbs, and 
over her couch is very fine. But it is as a whole we like the picture. 
This is not nature ; we cannot imagine nature like this under any 
circumstances ; but as a decorative composition of beautiful lines and 
forms, delicate modelling, and softest contrasts of glow and shadow, 
the picture is very fine and very beautiful. We can imagine no wall- 
space which would not be made fairer for having such a panel, and 
the artist himself would probably be the last to claim for his work any 
other office. 

In connection with these Academy contributions there should be 
remembered in 1884 the King Cophetua of Mr. Burne-Jones, and the 
Lady Archibald Campbell of Mr. Whistler.^ The former I have 
spoken of elsewhere — of the latter I wrote at the time : * 

" Look at the portrait of Lady Archibald Campbell by Mr. Whistler 
which hangs in the large east gallery — a work which is of its 
kind excessively fine, and by far the best example of its artist 
which we have lately seen. Circumstances have rendered it 
difficult for us to write of Mr. Whistler's work without consider- 
able hesitation, but we shall at least not be suspected of any undue 
partiality in our admiration of this portrait. We do not find it 
possible to take the artist's point of view — we do not believe in 
his conception of what painting and portraiture is and should be — 
but if we accept this difference, if we judge this work from its 
own standpoint, it is difficult to see how it could have been better. 
The drawing is delicious throughout — easy and anasterly as Mr. 
Whistler's drawing can be when he takes the trouble ; the tones 
of the black dress, and its colour and its relief against the dark 
background, are all good ; the attitude and poise of the figure are 
natural and graceful, and the whole picture is fresh, powerful, 
and striking, — on the whole, a masterly piece of work, complete 
and good, full of distinct individuality and great artistic insight." 

O O -1^ Was a year marked by the election to the Associate- 
J Q Q U ship of two artists whom the Academy had for years 
•^ passed by. These were Edward Burne-Jones and 
Henry Moore. The latter had been the best sea-painter in England 
— that is, in the world — for at least ten years before this date ; the 
former is one of the greatest artists of modern times, and had done 
his most exquisite work from 1865 to 1880: both when elected to 
the Academy were past fifty years of age, and only received election 

1 Both at the Grosvenor Gallery. ' Spectator, May loth, 1884. 

2Z 353 



from those motives of policy which have always rendered the Royal 
Academy willing to recognise painters who became too strong to be 

crushed. , r- , -r- i 

Another artist since elected an associate, Mr. Stanhope Forbes, sent 
a very interesting picture of a fish-sale (at Newlyn) to this year's 
exhibition. This was somewhat sneered at by the critics, who had 
not at that time become familiar with the words the Newlyn School, 
and who found it uninteresting, etc. Its artistic qualities, however, 
were very remarkable, and it appeared to me to be one of the two 
most successful pictures in the Academy. 

" An interesting and pleasing picture. The composition is careful 
and good, the pose of the figures natural, and the facts of the 
subject are all there unbeautified, and yet (if we may make an 
apparent paradox) made beautiful. As a specimen of the best kind 
of pre-Raphaelitism, look in this picture at the painting of the 
various kind of fish that lie upon the wet sand in the foreground. 
Not only have they accuracy of form and colour, with just sufficient 
detail to make each one individual ; but they have, too, that right- 
ness of value which puts them in perfect relation and subordination 
to the rest of the work. The same may be said of the figures, 
the big boat in the foreground, and the fishing-boats at anchor 
in the distance. All that is in the composition is right in itself, 
and also right in its place. Farther than this, literal truth of out- 
door effect could scarcely go. On this special subject, perhaps, 
the present writer has some justification for speaking strongly, 
as he spent last summer painting upon this very coast." 

Mr. Stanhope Forbes was elected last year (i 891) to the Associate- 
ship of the Academy, and his picture in this year's exhibition (1892) 
oi Forging the Anchor received the most undiluted praise from the press 
— but in essential qualities the above-mentioned earlier work was far 
finer. 

Q Q jT This season's collection of pictures stands in my 
J^ Q Q \j notes as a comparatively uninteresting one, owing 
chiefly to the number of absentee artists — Sir John 
Millais, Messrs. Herkomer, Tadema, Brett, Alfred Gilbert, E. F. 
Gregory, and many others were either absent altogether or repre- 
sented by small or unattractive examples ; on the other hand, there 
was the single contribution from Mr. Burne-Jones alluded to below, 
the President sent his bronze statue of The Sluggard, and there was 
a picture by Mr. John Sargent which aroused strong controversy — 
this was a portrait group of the three Misses Vickers. Notable, too, 
was the second of Mr. Orchardson's Mariage de Convenance series. 

" The Depths of the Sea, by Mr, Burne-Jones, is a high, narrow 
picture, somewhat the shape and size of a shutter, of a nature to niake 

354 



Mr. Horsley shut his eyes modestly, unless he has recanted his art 
lecture upon the undraped model. And yet it is, whatever may be 
its faults, absolutely without true reproach in this respect. No one 
who has eyes to see can doubt this picture of the mermaid, who drags 
down through dim, still green water her mortal lover, unconscious 
that he is dying in her arms, to be absolutely pure in intention and 
significance, — 

" ' Habes tola quod mente petisti 
Infelix.' 

A strange picture in many ways, — strange in its colouring of 
tender shades of yellow-brown, green, grey, and purple ; strange in 
cramped, twisted gestures, strange in mixture of human and 
un-human interest ; strangest of all, perhaps, in curious mingling of 
great imaginative power, and almost childish simplicity of detail. 
The mermaid's silver tail, for instance, is fitted neatly on to her pale- 
yellow body as if it had been done at a silversmith's ; and the floor of 
her rock palace is covered with hundreds of little brown pebbles, like 
the bottom of an aquarium. The picture does not look well in its 
position on these walls, — the work all round is so entirely opposed in 
character ; and, moreover, while taking this into consideration, it is not, 
in our opinion, one of the artist's finest works, though it possesses 
many beauties. 

" Mr. John Sargent's life - size portrait group of The Misses 
Vickers is in its way probably the cleverest thing in the exhibition. 
This is the ne plus ultra of French painting, or, rather, of the French 
method as learned by a clever foreigner, in which everything is 
sacrificed to technical considerations. The effect of a white dress or 
arm against a purple chair, the value, in short, of one object against 
another ; the effective disposition of masses ; the concentration of the 
attention upon the main point, to the comparative neglect of all the rest 
of the picture ; the losing sight of the object of all painting — that is, 
the production of pleasure to the beholder — in the pursuit of 
painting itself, that is, of smart, clean brushwork, undisturbed from 
the moment when the paint was taken from the palette and transferred 
dexterously to the canvas, — all these are the marks of modern French 
painting, as taught by, say, Carolus Duran ; and all of these Mr. 
Sargent has mastered, or is in a way to master. And yet, when all is 
done, what good is it .? Could we fancy any one a hundred years 
hence caring to possess such a picture as this, where colour and 
imagination have really no place, which calls aloud for us to admire 
its artistic dexterity, but seems never to have felt at all that there was 
anything more in its subject than a good opportunity of displaying 
the painter's power ? 

" Let us look at a very different kind of art : Sir Frederick Leighton's 
statue of The Sluggard, of which so much has been said. Tersely told, 

355 



the subject is a young man stretching himself, the arms raised in a 
horizontal position, and bent double at the elbow, with the hands 
towards the neck, the fingers of one closed and the other partially 
open. The body stands on one foot, and is slightly twisted, in the 
act of yawning. The work has neither great merits nor very atrocious 
defects, though both its good and bad points are clearly marked. 
And first we will take the good ones. The attitude carries the intention 
of the artist, — the man is in the act of stretching, and stands 
only for a moment, as it were, as we see him. And there is great 
knowledge shown, — not only anatomical knowledge, but that much 
rarer knowledge of what we are accustomed to call ideal ^ form. 
Certainly this is not a servile copy of any living model. Again, the 
figure has a merit which is very hard to characterise shortly, but 
which may be called the merit of style. It takes us back to great 
works of antiquity, and claims kinship with them. There are many 
other merits, but these may, perhaps, stand as the chief. What is 
there on the other side ? If the truth must be told, all the objections 
to this statue may be summed up in one, which is, in truth, fatal — it 
is not a sculptor's work. By this we mean simply that the merits are 
such as might be possessed by the work in clay or bronze of any 
genuine painter who possessed the knowledge of form which dis- 
tinguishes Sir Frederick Leighton ; but, on the other hand, the 
shortcomings are such as no sculptor would tolerate or condone. 

" It is almost impossible to define in words the great difference 
between the handling of a master in sculpture, and of one who is 
practically only a tyro in the art, — that this is akin to the touch of a 
great painter is nearly all that one can say, though the result is to give 
the impression of life, of the various substances of bone, muscle, and 
skin of which the body is made, and especially of the congruity and 
uniformity of the whole. Look at Hamo Thornycroft's Sower in 
this Gallery ; and note that, blundering in some respects as the 
conception is, yet the vitality of the body therein is felt in an entirely 
different manner from that which Sir Frederick shows. Turn, again, 
to the small, unpretentious statuette by Onslow Ford, which stands 
near The Sluggard; and the same thing, though manifested in a 
different form, is again visible. The laody, throughout all its 
diversity, has a suavity of contour, and a continuity as of one 
organism; whereas, when we look at The Sluggard, despite great 
artistic qualities, despite style and anatomical knowledge, we find 
that we think of parts — of legs, arms, ribs, and so on. Again, 
dismissing this point, we see the painter's, not the sculptor's, instinct 
in the position. And why ? Because the position is essentially very 
good only from one point of view. Looked at from right or left, the 
general form is unpleasant, in one or two places acutely displeasing, 
resembling that of an irregularly-planted cross, of which the long, 

356 







1^ S 



upright